The Public Eye

The Public Eye: Four candidates spend big in Sacramento council races

Published: Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012 - 11:47 am

The four men running for Sacramento City Council really want your vote.

The candidates vying for two seats on the council have combined to raise just shy of $1 million since the campaigns began last year, newly released campaign finance figures show. Those numbers were as of Oct. 20 – nearly three weeks before the November election.

Combined with other candidates in those races who failed to qualify for the November runoff and candidates in two other council races that were decided in the June primary, total fundraising on City Council campaigns has eclipsed $1.6 million, records show. That's more than 10 times what was raised for the same seats in 2008, when all four candidates ran unopposed.

Those figures come on the heels of a record-breaking primary in which City Council and mayoral candidates, as well as political action committees, combined to spend $2.4 million.

Political consultants said the seven-figure fundraising and spending levels are a sign that local politics continue to evolve.

"The days of spaghetti suppers and bake sales to raise campaign money are over in Sacramento," said consultant Steve Maviglio, who ran Mayor Kevin Johnson's re-election campaign this spring. "What's happening here is a reflection of what's happening on a national scale: a massive influx of special-interest money designed to sway voter opinion."

Deep-pocketed PACs aligned with business groups helped drive the large spending totals in the primary season. Labor groups and business interests have also remained among the largest donors in recent months, records show.

Meanwhile, fundraising for a proposed elected charter commission is not breaking any banks.

Voters are being asked to create the panel through Measure M. If it passes, 15 commissioners would be chosen for the task of spending the next two years exploring changes to the city charter.

All together, 30 of the 54 candidates running for the commission have campaign committees filed with the City Clerk. Those candidates have combined to raise $63,502, records show. They spent $50,179 – most of it on fees associated with filing their campaign statements with the city clerk's office.

Those numbers are dwarfed by the fundraising and spending totals in the council races.

Overall, the most expensive race has been the campaign for District 4, the district covering Land Park, the Central City and the River Oaks neighborhood of South Natomas. Including the primary, four candidates combined to raise $668,000 and spend $585,000 through Oct. 20, records show.

The two candidates left in the race are architect Joe Yee and biotech firm manager Steve Hansen. They've combined to raise $441,000 and spend $355,000. Hansen leads Yee in both columns; he's raised $267,000 and spent $214,000.

North of the American River, an expensive race is also unfolding in the campaign for District 2, where candidates raised $600,000 and spent $515,000 through Oct. 20.

Developer Allen Warren and Rob Kerth, the area's former councilman, are vying for the seat in November after emerging from a packed primary field. They've raised $518,000 combined and spent $433,000, records show.

Warren has the highest fundraising total in this election, although there's more to that story. He's brought in $290,000, but $121,000 of that is in loans he made to his campaign.

Kerth has raised $227,000, records show.

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