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By Mike Allen

November 2, 2018 (Santee) -- Running in his fourth city election, Santee Councilman Rob McNelis has been around the block a few times asking for funds to pay for such things as campaign signs and mailers so it’s no surprise that he easily leads the pack of seven candidates for the City Council with about $23,000 collected as of late October.

McNelis, a mortgage banker, freely says a large chunk of that money comes from people involved in the real estate industry, but that’s because of his career, not because he’s “in the pocket of developers.”

“It could be just because I have 30 years in this industry, and most of my friends are in this industry,” said McNelis, who is running in District 1.

Through Oct. 20, according to McNelis’ required disclosure forms, he collected $23,368 in contributions, and spent $9,274.

Documents provided by the Santee City Clerk’s office show a dozen individuals gave his campaign the maximum allowed, $700. They are Justin and Heather Schiaefli, Andy Chen, Boyd, Sally and Ted Frumkin, Bill Bernards, Tom Connor, Joe Outlaw, Michael Grant and Daniel and Laurie Thompson.

The Thompsons, who listed an address in Newport Beach, actually donated $1000 each to McNelis but he returned $600 to them because the contributions exceeded the city mandated limit of $700, according to the latest public document.

McNelis also loaned his campaign a cumulative total of $1,415 as of Oct. 20. He said the final report won’t show much more in contributions than what has already been collected. The bulk of the contributions went to pay for new signs to replace a bunch that were stolen, he said.

He also said he’s accepted a good deal of contributions not because of who he is but because some people dislike his opponent, Evlyn Andrade-Heymsfield.

McNelis also received about $2,000 from the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, an independent political action committee that has raised about $44,000. The PAC gave about the same amount to Councilman Ronn Hall, running in District 2, and Laura Koval, running in District 3.

In addition, McNelis is benefiting from at least $2,473 in contributions made by Citizens for a Better East County, which raised a total of $24,000 including $20,000 from Infrastructure PAC of AGC, according to required filings.

Andrade-Heymsfield, a software engineer who is running against McNelis, raised $11,511 through Oct. 20 in her first attempt at public office, and spent $8,170, according to the state mandated forms. She says she has refused contributions from developers.

Her top contributors were Richard and Jeanne Rogalski, $700 each; Karen Schroeder $700; Teresa Martinez, $700; J.B. Martinez, $700; Chris Martinez, $700; Carol Martinez, $700; P. Chris Hughes, $600; William and Cindy Elrod, $600 each. The candidate also loaned herself $1,050 through the most recent reporting date.

In District 2, Hall, the owner of a Santee insurance brokerage who was first elected to the Council in 2014, raised $7,875 in contributions, and spent $5,552, according to his report. The largest contributors to Hall were John Chen, $500; Michael and Devani Brown, $500 and Richard Griffin, $400. Hall also listed total personal loans of $2,800.

Rudy Reyes, who has been a perennial challenger in a number of local elections in East County, is opposing Hall in District 2, but he’s banking on his name recognition and views to carry him. As of Oct. 20, Reyes listed contributions of $391, and expenses of $274.

In District 3, which does not have an incumbent on the council and will elect a new person, Koval, a director at the Santee Lakes park, raised a total of $13,961 in her first campaign for public office. She reported spending $11,307 through Oct. 20 of the amount raised.

Koval obviously has friends at the Padre Dam Water District, the operator of Santee Lakes park, as three directors and an executive are listed as contributors. They are James and Linda Peasley, $700 each; Paul Clarke, $200; William Pommering, $200. James Peasley, Clarke and Pommering are on the board of the water district. Padre Dam CFO Karen Jassoy gave Koval $200.

Other donors to Koval for the $700 maximum are Linda Cole and Robert Velasco.

Koval and Hall received backing from the Santee Firefighters Association Political Education Committee, which raised $39,861 as of Oct. 20. Although the report showed no expenditures as of that date, signs backing Koval and Hall with the Firefighters endorsement are up around the city.

Zack Gianino, a student representative running in his first election, raised $5,388 in contributions, and spent $4,922 as of Oct. 20, his report shows. The two largest contributors were Nathan Zorre, $600 and Karen Schroeder, $400. Gianino also made loans to his campaign totaling $1,037.

Lynda Marrokal, a retired manager, listed zero contributions collected, and $1,310 in expenditures. She is financing her own campaign without any help.

Tuesday, Nov. 6 is Election Day.