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Ventura County

Bamieh Leads in Funds for D.A. Race

Election: Candidate's father donated nearly all the $217,000 he has raised in the last three weeks.

January 25, 2002|TRACY WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ventura County district attorney candidate Ron Bamieh collected $217,000 in campaign contributions in the past three weeks, almost entirely from his rich father.

San Mateo businessman Sam Bamieh gave his son $215,000, doubling the amount he has spent on the campaign since last fall.

Meanwhile, rival candidate Greg Totten picked up $49,000 in small donations from nearly 150 supporters, including local attorneys, doctors and ranchers, according to campaign finance reports filed Thursday. He also picked up $6,000 from labor and law enforcement unions.

Totten has raised about $227,000 since the campaign began--less than half the $530,000 raised by his opponent.

But Totten said he is not threatened by Bamieh's overflowing campaign treasury, which he expects will pass the $1-million mark before the March 5 primary.

"Ventura County voters are very smart," he said. "I've got the experience, the character and support that money can't buy."

The two prosecutors are vying to replace retiring Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury, who steps down next January after six terms.

Totten, the 47-year-old chief assistant district attorney, has been endorsed by Bradbury, Sheriff Bob Brooks, police and labor unions, and four Ventura County supervisors.

Bamieh, a 36-year-old senior deputy district attorney, has endorsements from former state Sen. Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) and the Simi Valley police officers' association.

Both candidates liken the contentious race to a David-versus-Goliath fight--one battling big money, the other fighting big endorsements and Bradbury's legacy.

"This office was going to be handed down," said Bamieh, who argues that without big money no one could challenge the "good-old-boys" network.

"The reality is, to run against the system they created, you need resources," Bamieh said. "My father and mother love their son. They worked hard all their lives, and they have the resources."

Sam Bamieh owns several privately held corporations and has been a major GOP contributor. He raised $1.1 million for former Gov. Pete Wilson by holding a fund-raiser at his Hillsborough home, and personally gave Wilson $259,000.

"I thought I was going to retire from it until Ron Bamieh decided to run for office," Sam Bamieh told The Times in an interview last fall. "Ron has the experience, so I feel as a loving father I will help him all I can to provide him resources."

Campaign finance reports show the elder Bamieh made seven large donations from Jan. 3-18 totaling $215,000. To date, he has given about $454,000 to his son's campaign.

"It is just proof that his father is making good on his promise to buy this election," Totten said Thursday. "Less than half a percent of his money comes from within Ventura County. We have raised our money from people living and working in the community."

Sam Bamieh's role in the race has riled Totten's supporters.

"I am very concerned about this race," said Ventura County Supervisor John Flynn. "I feel it is very important that candidates for office in Ventura County get their money from the residents and people who live in Ventura County.

"I don't want someone up in San Mateo County electing a district attorney for my county."

Bamieh counters by saying he won't take any contributions over $500 from anyone inside Ventura County because he believes the district attorney should never appear beholden to local political supporters.

"You can't be naive. People contribute because they want to have some say. They want access, and I always worry about insiders trying to gain influence inside the district attorney's office," he said. "You just have to be very careful."

The campaign finance reports filed Thursday show Bamieh outspending Totten 3 to 1 with mailers, television and radio ads. Bamieh also spent about $39,000 on a New York-based campaign consultant.

Totten knows he will be outspent. But he plans to unleash hundreds of supporters, including his union backers, to take the campaign door-to-door, he said.

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