“POWER BROKERS IN THE RACE?
Brandvold has attracted influential supporters, including Chuck Bryant with the Christian-based Pinnacle Forum and Modesto land-use attorney George Petrulakis, who over the years has offered advice and assistance to dozens of political candidates, many of them Republicans. Brandvold is a Republican. He also has received nearly $2,000 in campaign contributions from PMZ Real Estate CEO Mike Zagaris, Executive Vice President Jon Zagaris and their wives.
“We were complaining about City Hall one day and I encouraged him to run,” Petrulakis said. “He’s very soft-spoken but very deliberative and thoughtful. He struck me as the kind of person who could change the culture at City Hall, change the leadership style.”
Brandvold’s endorsements include the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, former Mayor Jim Ridenour, former police Chief Mike Harden, Stanislaus County Supervisor and Stanislaus County Republican Party Chairman Jim DeMartini, and the Modesto Police Officers and Modesto City Fire Fighters associations.
Marsh sent a campaign mailer to voters that claims power brokers are bankrolling Brandvold’s campaign. Marsh said his concern is whether Brandvold would be independent as mayor. But Marsh declined to provide details about his claims, such as the names of the power brokers. “Whoever recruited him,” he said. “I have no facts on that so I don’t want to state who I think it is.”
But Marsh said he considered the chamber among the power brokers, as well as some of the people who have given money to Brandvold’s campaign or are helping him get elected. Former Councilman and farmland advocate Denny Jackman, who is supporting Marsh, claims Brandvold is being backed by development interests and has a “cover the earth mentality,” according to a letter to the editor he wrote. But Brandvold has said he wants to balance economic development with protecting farmland.
Brandvold said he found Marsh’s accusation amusing. He said while a few people encouraged him to consider running, it was solely his decision, that this is his campaign, and he will be independent as mayor.
He said Marsh needs to say who these power brokers are. “I don’t know any power brokers in Modesto,” Brandvold said, laughing. He added that he was flattered by the accusation because it must mean Marsh is desperate. Brandvold said his campaign would not send out similar mailers and expects those who are supporting him not to do so.
Chamber CEO-President Cecil Russell said he was stumped by Marsh’s claims. “I have no idea what he means,” Russell said. “Power brokers sounds like, ‘Wow, they are really powerful.’ ”
Brandvold served on the Planning Commission that in 2013 recommended a land-use map to the City Council that would have designated about 1,800 acres for development in Wood Colony, the unincorporated farming community west of Highway 99.
The council eventually designated about 850 acres, but that still angered colony residents and their supporters. Hundreds of them protested at council meetings in late 2013 and early 2014. The protests led Jackman and other farmland advocates to put Measure I – an urban growth boundary – on the November 2015 ballot. The measure was narrowly defeated, with the Chamber of Commerce leading the effort to defeat it.
Brandvold did not vote for the map that went to the council, but he was in the minority of commissioners who voted for a map that included the roughly 1,800 acres in Wood Colony as well as designating additional land for development in north Modesto. Brandvold said Wood Colony residents did not protest at the commission meetings, so commissioners did not know their concerns. “This was not the big blown-up issue that it became when it went to the council,” he said.
Brandvold said the protests and controversy at the council meetings highlight a shortcoming at City Hall: It does not do a good job of listening to those affected by its decisions and of reaching consensus. He said he would change that as mayor.”
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316