Politics and beer

Chico Vice Mayor Sean Morgan is a monster fundraiser; plus, it’s Beer Week!

Two years ago, when Reanette Fillmer raised a ton of money and became a member of the Chico City Council, I realized that anyone can buy a seat at the dais.

Fillmer had never served on any municipal board or commission. She had an abysmal voting record and little or no community service experience. What she does have are fundraising skills. Fillmer took in $47,000. And that’s the point: money talks.

That makes Chico Vice Mayor Sean Morgan the person with the loudest voice in this year’s council election. The incumbent, one-term councilman has raised a whopping $51,000. Eyebrows up. Way up. See Ken Smith’s report on that total, along with those of the other candidates, on page 10.

Indeed, Morgan’s coffers are impressive. As I’ve written about before, he got an early start last summer (see “Buzz-cut barbecue,” Second & Flume, July 30, 2015). By my count, Morgan’s cook-out raised in one day more than $13,000 from his hosts and sponsors, and that doesn’t include his numerous $50-a-plate attendees.

His guest list included a bunch of heavy hitters in the local business community, along with a trifecta of regional Republican bigwigs: Assemblyman James Gallagher, Sen. Jim Nielsen and Congressman Doug LaMalfa. All three politicos gave speeches during the event.

Things get interesting at this intersection. That’s because Morgan appears to be the anointed one in the cast of our area’s low-level Republicans. That is, it seems to me that he’s being groomed for bigger things than the little old City Council. Morgan has a lot going for him in this realm. He’s youngish (mid-40s), has high-school-age kids who will be out of the house soon and, for the most part, the state and federal districts are easy pickins for Republicans. Jim Nielsen is in his early 70s, so we can expect (hope) he’s going to retire one of these years. Morgan may make his move then.

For now, he needs to keep his coucil seat. Thing is, the vice mayor seems tight with LaMalfa, and ever since LaMalfa’s smear campaign against primary challenger Joe Montes, a lot of local conservatives, the ones who supported Montes, are none too happy with Morgan.

Speaking of LaMalfa, the day this paper hits the stands is the day our not-so-venerable congressman takes on Democratic challenger Jim Reed during the League of Women Voters forum at Marsh Junior High School. I’ve been a panelist during at least one of the candidates forums LaMalfa has participated in over the years. My favorite that I attended, however, was the 2014 face-off with Democrat Heidi Hall. She ran circles around the Richvale native.

I’d like to be there this year, too, but I have another task on my plate. I’ll be helping out at the kick-off event for CN&R’s annual Chico Beer Week, our region’s week-plus-long celebration of all things craft brew. Brewfork, a beer-tasting event featuring 11 breweries with proceeds supporting a nonprofit journalism fund, also includes a dozen food trucks you’re familiar with through the popular Fork in the Road events as well as live music from my favorite Chico band, the Michelin Embers. It’s a great partnership and a great time out at the lovely Patrick Ranch, so I hope to see a great turnout.