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Disclosure Forms Reveal Top Contributors In the Race For Mayor

Candidates haul in huge cash in race for top elected spot

Published on Monday, October 19, 2020 | 2:42 pm
Councilmember Victor Gordo (l) and Mayor Terry Tornek (r)

A look at Pasadena City Councilman Victor Gordo’s campaign financial disclosure forms in his race for mayor against incumbent Mayor Terry Tornek reveals a close connection with not only the city’s Old School political elites, but also some of Pasadena’s top business leaders, as well as the highest levels of organized labor around the state, with many donors contributing $1,000, and in some cases up to $15,000 to his campaign.

Aside from the names of some of the donors, however, Tornek’s disclosure statements aren’t really all that much different, with large contributions coming from high-profile friends and acquaintances, family members, and some of the most influential business and cultural leaders in Pasadena.

One historic contributor to local political campaigns has been the Pasadena Police Officers Association, which in the current race for mayor is not backing a candidate.

Although initially not in favor of a citizen’s commission to oversee the Police Department, Tornek, a member of the council’s Public Safety Committee, worked with committee Chair and fellow Councilmember John Kennedy in developing a plan for an oversight commission. He eventually joined other councilmembers — as did Gordo, who also originally did not support the idea of a police oversight commission — in approving the seating of such a board. In fact, officials are currently in the process of selecting members of the city’s newest commission.

Some candidates in the March primary election, according to a recent report in the Pasadena Star-News, received contributions from the police association, among them District 6 incumbent Councilmember Steve Madison, District 4 incumbent Councilmember Gene Masuda, Councilmember-elect Felicia Williams, Vice Mayor Tyron Hampton (who was running unopposed), and four unsuccessful candidates.

Unlike local police, however, the politically powerful Pasadena Firefighters Association, which also regularly contributes money to candidates in local elections, has donated $15,000 to Gordo’s campaign.

“The Pasadena Firefighters Association is proud to endorse a dedicated public safety advocate like Victor Gordo for Mayor because he understands the integral role that firefighters play in our public safety system. We know that our firefighters can count on Victor to fight for the equipment, resources, and staffing necessary to keep our local neighborhoods safe, because he’s done so time and time again on the Pasadena City Council, standing up for the brave women and men who have devoted their lives to protecting our communities,” the association wrote.

“We are proud to stand with Victor in his campaign, and look forward to helping him get elected Mayor of our city.”

In the online documents filed by Gordo also appear the names of former Pasadena schools Superintendent Vera Vignes, giving Gordo’s campaign $1,000, and Andrea Van de Kamp, the widow of former state Attorney General John Van Kamp, who in the initial reporting period gave $500, then $1,000 more since the campaign against Tornek in the November election began in July.

There’s also Marsha Rood, the now-retired city planning executive who helped spearhead the revitalization of Centennial Square, at City Hall, who also gave $1,000 to Gordo’s campaign. Gordo also has accepted contributions from United Teachers of Pasadena ($1,000), restaurateur Gregg Smith ($1,000), longtime activist Nina Chomsky ($500), and Hahn and Hahn attorney and former Tournament of Roses President Scott Jenkins ($100).

But perhaps the most notable name on Gordo’s filings is that of former Mayor Bill Bogaard. Not only is Bogaard a major donor to his former colleague’s campaign, now joined in supporting Gordo by fellow former Councilmembers Steve Haderlein ($500) and Bill Paparian ($100). Bogaard is the treasurer of Gordo’s campaign to unseat Tornek, contributing upwards of $6,000 to the campaign, according to election financial documents.

All told, Gordo raised $210,289 from July 1 to Sept. 19, the last day of the reporting period, giving him a total since January of more than $456,000, according to his latest disclosure filing.

In his campaign for re-election, Tornek is acting as his own treasurer. And, much like Gordo, he is banking on trusted deep-pocket local personalities to help him ensure another four-year term in office.

Among Tornek’s major contributors are Ed Washatka and Kris Ockershauser of the city’s police reform movement, contributing $750 and $450, respectively. There’s also Human Relations Commissioner Nat Nehdar, contributing $500, former PCC Board of Trustees member Ross Selvidge contributing $500, sitting PCC Trustee Berlinda Brown donating $250, and former Pasadena City Manager Don McIntyre pitching in $600 to the $218,515 raised by Tornek since January, with more than $97,000 of that amount coming in the last reporting period, according to the documents.

Other contributors to Tornek’s campaign include Paul Rusnak of Rusnak Motors ($9,995), Dominic Ng, chair and CEO of East-West Bank ($5,000), California Pacific Homes ($5,000), the political action group ACT ($1,000), former Tournament of Roses President Don Fedde of Fedde Furniture ($200), Nadim Hadir, president of Palatine Development ($3,200), former Pasadena Board of Education member Ramon Miramontes ($1,500), and Old Pasadena property owner Carolyn Naber ($1,000).

Pasadena Now is still investigating independent expenditure accounts opened to support both candidates. This story does not yet include details regarding those funds.

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