OK, So I Exaggerate a Little …

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(Before you start reading this drivel, I apologize in advance for all the numbers you are going to see.  I’m an accountant in the midst of tax season, so numbers is all I know right now…)

So boldly did I predict how much the November 2010 Newport Beach City Council race was going to cost.

The last couple of Contested City Council elections, in 2006 AND 2008 had rung up almost $500,000 price tags each.  In 2006, that massive amount was spent over four REALLY contested (out of the six up for election) City Council Seats, in 2008, over two truly contested City Council Seats.  This $500,000 was spent in each election by the candidates, the Police/Fire Unions, the Chamber of Commerce, and by other interested parties (Independent Expenditure Committees, etc.)

With 2010, although technically there were two contested seats, I would confidently call the Open Seat race between now-Councilman Rush Hill and Ed Reno the only contested seat. No offense to Mark Tabbert, who ran against incumbent Leslie Daigle, but his campaign was Quixotic at best, sputtering from the start, collecting only $2,961.20 from actually donors, and financed mostly by $5,459.88 in loans from himself to his own campaign.

So with the one 2010 Newport Beach City Council seat, I boldly and arrogantly claimed that at the end of the day, that same $500,000 would be spent on that one seat, illustrating how expensive and out of reach a Newport Beach City Council seat is for the “normal” resident.

Well…I finally did the math, finally dusted off the cobwebs and did the research and what did I find?

I guessed wrong.

Council Candidate Ed Reno raised $106,542.65 and loaned his campaign $21,900.00, to total $128,442.65 brought in.  He ended up spending $126,080.49.  The Republican Party of Orange County spent on Reno’s behalf $33,908.25.

So in total, the Ed Reno campaign had $159,988.74 to get his message/name out.

Eventual winner Rush Hill raised $71,631.00, loaned his campaign $50,000.00, to total $121,631.00 brought in.  He ended up spending $107,404.00, while the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce spent $6,696.28 on Rush’s behalf and the Newport Beach Fire Fighter’s Union (or Association as they like to be called) spent $8,337.07 for Rush.

In total, Councilman Rush Hill had $122,437.35 to get his message/name out.

So the race to replace former Councilmember/former Lifetime City Employee Don Webb cost $282,426.09.

Is that a lot?  Does it seem like a lot?

Almost $300k for an open competitive City Council seat?

To finish off the City, Mayor Mike Henn raised $27,264.00, used $17,500.00 to pay off his 2006 loans from himself, and spent $4,594.17 in his uncontested race.

Councilwoman Nancy Gardner raised and spent nothing in her uncontested race.

Councilwoman Leslie Daigle raised $100,310.00 to ward off Tabbert, spending $61,457.00 of it, leaving herself a decent start for her next higher office aspirations.  The Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce spent $6,696.28 on Leslie’s behalf and the Newport Beach Fire Union spent $8,337.07 for Leslie.

As an aside: although I fully discounted Mark Tabbert’s campaign, Leslie did not, taking Mark very seriously, as she should have. I admire Leslie’s nature in not taking anything, or anyone for granted.

So in total, $370,966.98 was spent in the 2010 Newport Beach City Council elections.

After the November election, Councilman Rush Hill commented on how expensive running for office is and that something needed to be done to get the costs down.  Now with those numbers in black and white, all added up, $282k for one seat is quite expensive, $371k for the entire election cycle is even heavier.

But what can be done?  In previous columns, I’ve noted some of the costs in running a Citywide campaign; the Consultants, the mailings, the signs, all to reach the 60K or so registered voters in Newport Beach.  Those costs will not automatically lower themselves.

There is only one solution – which I’ve written about before, which I will write about again – that will drastically and dramatically lower the costs of running for office.  And that’s voting only within one’s district for that district’s councilmember.  But more on that in a future column…

Meanwhile, I overshot my mark. I guessed that to replace Don Webb, it would cost $500k, instead it ONLY cost $282k.

So I exaggerated a little, but I think my point was made anyway…


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