Follow the Money – Part 1


Following the Money – Part 1:

A Breakdown of Candidate Campaign Contributions

By Robert Haugh

While glossy mailers – some even with audio recordings, spammy phone calls and other election materials circulate throughout the Mission City, what better way to decipher who is serving who’s interest by taking a look at the money trail. Here, we break down the campaign contributions for every Santa Clara candidate in the Nov. 8 election.

The following data is compiled from Form 460 documents – for the reporting period through Oct. 22. A final post-election statement following the election will include contributions and expenditures from Oct. 23 to election day. In part 2, we will tackle independent expenditures for the election made by outside organizations.

Here is a quick summation of total contributions received for each candidate, from low to high:

Deborah Bress – $1,782.00

Anthony Becker – $2,354.00

Marcus Bracamonte – $2,588.00

Mario Bouza – $3,699.00

Kevin Park – $10,771.00

Kathy Watanabe – $11,775.00

John McLemore – $15,557.00

Teresa O’Neill – $22,630.17

Debi Davis – $22,762.00

Tino Silva – $23,007.85

Suds Jain – $28,735.64

Patricia Mahan – $29,456.00

Raj Chahal – $35,529.00

Ahmad Rafah – $36,683.89

Mike Sellers – $38,664.53

Pat Nikolai – $39,332.33

Mohammed Nadeem – $39,908.93

Rod Diridon, Jr. – $42,389.55

City Clerk

Rod Diridon, Jr.

Diridon raised the most all 18 candidates, having raised over $42,000. Diridon received 35 maximum contributions of $550 – from an array of sources, including retired Santa Clara Police Chief Steve Lodge, local PACs, elected officials, family members and colleagues.

The majority of his donors were from Silicon Valley residents, many from Santa Clarans. He received a $400 donation from Council member Pat Kolstad and $150 from Council member Jerry Marsalli.

Diridon refunded contributions from Patricia Mahan and Regina Mahan after learning of Pattricia Mahan’s candidacy for Jerry Marsalli’s seat. Diridon told us directly that he made it a personal practice to not seek or accept campaign contributions from 1) City Clerk’s Office vendors, 2) current bidders on City Clerk’s Office projects, or 3) current City of Santa Clara candidates or their campaign treasurers.” With Patty [Mahan] running and Regina [Mahan] serving as Patty’s campaign treasurer, “it was appropriate to return their contributions and endorsements.  It was done without bias one way or another regarding Patty or Jeannie, but simply to be consistent with my personal values.”

Deborah Bress

Bress reports only four donors totaling $1,782 – including a $1,200 loan from herself. Her other contributions were $200 from David’s Restaurant, $238 from Santa Claran Thomas Posey and $100 from Santa Claran Ketra Oberlander.

Police Chief

Mike Sellers and Pat Nikolai are head-to-head in fundraising, with both having raised approximately $39,000. Their lists of contributors are a tale of two stories – the majority of Sellers’ donors were from high-ranking police officers as well as several Santa Clara Rotary members and business colleagues. Whereas Nikolai received the majority of his contributions from Santa Clara Police Department officers and staff.

Mike Sellers

Sellers received contributions from an array of high-ranking police and fire officials, including: Milpitas Police Chief Steve Pangelinan, SCPD Assistant Chief Dan Winter, Los Gatos Police Commander Michael D’Antonio, Los Gatos Police Chief Matt Frisby, Sunnyvale DPS Commander Dayton Pang, Los Altos Police Chief Charles Younis, Santa Clara Fire Chief Bill Kelly, several retired SCPD Police Chiefs as well as contributions from several developers, local business members and a plethora of Santa Clara Rotary colleagues who reside throughout the Bay Area.

Among the largest donors to Sellers’ campaign were maximum $550 contributions from ROEM President Robert Emami, Golden Land Development, Inc., Don Vinh, Inc., ChinaTown LLC, Jan Lu & Anh Du Itee, Lu & Hong LLC, Lu & Hong LLC Principals Vi Han Li and Lien Thu Hong, Dreamcore Entertainment, Inc.

Sellers also received $500 from Santa Clara Weekly Publisher Miles Barber, former Mayor Gary Gillmor, Santa Clara Council member Jerry Marsalli as well as $300 each from Council candidate John McLemore and attorney John Mlnarik.*

Patrick Nikolai

Vastly differing from Sellers, Nikolai received a boastful of contributions from SCPD officers – 21 SCPD officers contributing the max of $550 each, with $16,400 of his contributions coming from SCPD officers and staff.

Nikolai received eight maximum $550 contributions from PACs, as well as the maximum $550 from Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor,  Lime Lite Coach owner Phil Restivo and Preston Pipelines plus $500 from Santa Clara County District Attorney Vic Chen.

Among his PAC contributions were $550 each from: Santa Clara Police Officer’s Association PAC, Deputy Sherriff’s Association of Santa Clara County PAC, San Francisco Deputy Sherriff Association PAC, Santa Clara Firefighters Local 1171 PAC, San Jose Police Officer’s Association PAC, Sunnyvale Public Safety Officers Association PAC, PORA Officers Research Association PAC and the Santa Clara County Government Attorneys Association PAC. He also took in $500 each from Local 101 AFSCME PAC and the AFSCME 57 PAC.

City Council Seat 3

Both incumbent Debi Davis and challenger and former Council member John McLemore received an array of smaller contributions from the Santa Clara community and local businesses and elected officials. Santa Clara Realty owners Tony Avelar and Mimi Avelar split their support – with Mimi Avelar contributing to Davis and Tony Avelar donating to McLemore.

Debi Davis

Davis boasts strong support in smaller donations from over two dozen Santa Clarans, with her largest single donors being $500 from Mimi Avelar, former Mayor Gary Gillmor, Master Precision owner Richard Rossi and Mayor Lisa Gillmor.

Davis took in nine contributions from local PACs: $550 maximums from Santa Clara Firefighters Local 1171 PAC and Public Safety Non-Sworn Employees Association with $500 contributions from IBEW 332 PAC, Democrat Activists for Women Now (DAWN) PAC, Santa Clara& San Benito Counties PAC, Unite Here Tip State and Local PAC and Santa Clara Employees for Effective Government PAC. Plumbers, Steamfitters & Refrigeration Fitters Local 393 PAC added $260, with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 265 contributing $250.

Davis also received $1,500 via three contributions from the Mezzetti Law Offices and its principal owners.

John McLemore

McLemore, like Davis, received smaller contributions from about two dozen Santa Clarans, with his largest donors being $550 each from Council candidate Ahmad Rafah, Bob Moore, Postal Annex store owner Chuck Kim, former Mayor and Realcom owner Larry Fargher, attorney John Mlnarik*, Kristin Mlnarik*, former Mayor and Council candidate Patricia Mahan plus $300 from Tony Avelar.

McLemore also received $550 each from the California League of Conservation Voters and the California Real Estate PAC plus $500 each from CORE Affordable Housing, LLC and the Santa Clara Employees for Effective Government PAC and $250 from hotel consultant Barbara Perzigian.

City Council Seat 4

The race for Seat 4 sees a diversity in campaign funding sources. First-time Council candidate Raj Cahal has refused funds from all special interests, raising only funds from community members and self-loans to his campaign. Tino Silva and Patricia Mahan each boast a large amount of individual donations from the community as well as PAC donations, while newcomer to Santa Clara politics Markus Bracamonte raised very little, mostly from family and a personal loan to his own campaign. Chahal and Bracamonte both did not receive any funds from special interest groups or labor organizations.

Tino Silva

Silva self-funded $10,000 toward his campaign and received over 20 contributions from Santa Clarans. Silva received seven donations from PACS and unions as well as $3,000 from six Related Companies executives affiliated with the City Place development.

Silva’s largest donors included $500 each from mayor Lisa Gillmor, Santa Claran Neil Hasheider, Santa Claran Andre Chevalier, Santa Clara business MAK Associates, property owner Ronald Patrick, Griffin Structures president Santa Claran Roger Torriero, Santa Claran Dan Segueira and CORE Affordable Housing.

Silva received the following union and PAC donations: IBEW 332 $250, Local 101 AFSCME $250, AFSCME Council 57 PAC $250, Public Safety Non-Sworn Employees Association $550, Unite Here Tip State and Local Fund $500, Local 3939 PAC $260, Santa Clara Firefighters Local 1171 $275.

Markus Bracamonte

Bracamonte received the majority of his contributions from friends and family, including $500 form his treasurer David Coats.

Raj Chahal

In addition to self-funding $22,000 toward his campaign, Chahal received a plethora of small donations from Santa Clarans. He refused donations from special interest organizations and unions. He refunded a $250 contribution from Murali Gubbala. Chahal returned the donation when he discovered a home owned by Gubbala was pending an Architectural Review at a July 20 and Sept. 15 Architectural Committee meetings. “I hold myself to a high standard of ethics,” said Chahal.

Patricia (Patty) Mahan

Mahan received several smaller donations from community members and civic leaders, including the maximum $550 from Council member Pat Kolstad, attorney John Mlnarik*, Kristin Mlnarik* and Council candidate John McLemore. She also received $500 from Rod Diridon, Sr. She also received $500 from CORE Affordable Housing.

Mahan received nine donations from PACs and union organizations: the $550 maximum from California Real Estate PAC ; $500 each from Unite Here TIP State and Local Fund PAC, Santa Clara Employees for Effective Government PAC, Santa Clara & San Benito Counties Building & Construction Trades Council PAC and IBEW 332 Education Fund PAC; $275 from Santa Clara Firefighters Local 1171 PAC; and $250 each from Local 101 AFSCME AFL-CIO PAC, California League of Conservation Voters Santa Clara County Chapter PAC and AFSCME Council 57 PAC.

City Council Seat 6

Mohammed Nadeem leads the fundraising of the five candidates for Seat 6, held by appointed incumbent Kathy Watanabe. Like Chahal in the Seat 4 race, Watanabe and Nadeem both refused special interest group donations. Suds Jain predominately funded his entire campaign, as did Anthony Becker while Mario Bouza’s funds came mostly from family and business colleagues.

Mario Bouza

Aside from loaning himself the majority of his funds, Bouza received $550 from the California Real estate PAC and $100 from Terri Kolstad, plus several smaller contributions from family members and colleagues.

Kathy Watanabe

Watanabe recorded 42 donations from Santa Clarans, with no contributions coming from special interest organizations. Her largest contribution was a $2,000 loan to her campaign with all 62 of her donations being $100 each. She decided to decline any contributions from developers, PACS, special interests or corporations.

Mohammed Nadeem

Like Watanabe, Nadeem recorded an arsenal of donations (43) from Santa Clarans. His largest donor was Santa Clara Weekly Publisher Miles Barber at $500.

Suds Jain

Jain received a few local donations in addition to his own $20,000 loan to his campaign.

Anthony Becker

Becker, an Uber driver loaned himself $700 and recorded multiple small contributions from friends and family.

City Council Seat 7

Incumbent Teresa O’Neill and Ahmad Rafah, a former assistant to Congressman Mike Honda both raised substantial campaign funds, while Kevin Park almost entirely funded his own campaign. O’Neill’s support comes mostly via small contributions from Santa Clara community members and civic leaders while the majority of Rafah’s funding came from outside of Santa Clara. Rafah and park did not receive and special interest funding.

Teresa O’Neill

In addition to a $2,000 self-loan, of her 40 donations coming from Santa Clara, the largest contributors were maximum $550 contributions from Mayor Lisa Gillmor, teacher Patricia Biotini and president of Engine Control and Monitoring Ron Patrick. O’Neill also recorded $500 donations from former mayor Gary Gillmor and The Animal Clinic as well as a maximum $550 donation from Kansen Chu for State Assembly.

O’Neill received 11 contributions from unions and PACs, including the maximum $550 from Public Safety non-Sworn Employee Association; $500 each from AFSCME Council 57 PAC, Local 101 AFSCME AFL-CIO PAC, IBEW Local 332 Education Fund , Santa Clara Employees for Effective Government PAC, Santa Clara Firefighters Local 1171 PAC, DAWN, Santa Clara and San Benito Counties Building & Construction trade Council PAC and Unite Here TIP State and Local Fund. Plumbers, Steamfitters & Refrigeration Fitters Local 393 PAC donated $260 while Build Jobs PAC, Santa Clara County League of Conservation Voters and Cement Masons Local Union 400 PAC each donated $250 to O’Neill.

Kevin Park

Park’s campaign was primarily self-funded, loaning himself most of his funds.

Ahmad Rafah

Of Rafah’s 109 contributions, only 16 came from Santa Clara – with John Mlnarik*, Kristin Mlnarik* and McLemore all giving $550. Rafah also received $200 from Regina Mahan and $100 each from Council members Dominic Caserta and Pat Kolstad. Rafah self-funded $7,000 to his campaign.

Among Rafah’s largest contributors was $550 from Congressman Mike Honda. Of his 30 donations over $250, only three came from Santa Clara residents – McLemore, John Mlnarik and Kristen Mlnarik.

Rafah did not receive special interest or PAC funds.

*The Mlnarik Law Firm owned by John Mlnarik filed several FPPC complaints against candidates opposing those he donated to.

Part 2 will cover third-party expenditure made during the election, such as Political Action Committees. These are donations that may not be known or endorsed by candidates, but are reported thanks to FPPC regulations.


  1. Interesting report. Diridon returns Mahan contribution. Is it because she was found guilty of lobbying? You only report contributions from the Related Company to Tino Silva. Did they not contribute to the others who supported their project?

    • Related only donated to Silva. Maybe he is the only one who asked them for contributions? Not sure on the Mahan to Diridon donations. Raj Chahal returned one donation as well. I have asked the candidates why they did such. I’ll update/edit when I have that information.

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