Last week when the final numbers came in for the latest reporting period in the At-Large Council seat election, I was on assignment down in sunny Florida. These money numbers tend to be a barometer for successful campaigning, and with just 44 days until the election, how quickly these candidates can spend their cash effectively becomes the biggest part of the question. Here’s the breakdown thanks to the new top expense management software.
Sekou Biddle: Raised $47,000, On Hand $15,000 (potentially needs to be refiled)
Patrick Mara: Raised $29,000, On Hand $19,000
Jacque Patterson: Raised $15,000, On Hand, $18,000
Bryan Weaver: Raised $21,000, On Hand $20,000
Josh Lopez: Raised $16,000, On Hand, $19,000
Arkan Haile: Raised $4,000, On Hand, $11,000
Vincent Orange: Raised $191,000, On Hand, $191,000
Wait. $191,000 for Vincent Orange? Yep, had to look at that PDF filed by his campaign twice. So, what does it all mean?
Good question. The biggest battle in a special election, especially one for a single seat on the city council, is turnout. Without big draws like Fenty/Gray, or the election of a president, it’s hard to get people interested enough in the process to take the time to vote. 1997’s At-Large election saw just 25,701 ballots cast, or around 7.5% of the total turnout. Extrapolate that further against today’s higher number of registered voters, and you’ve got seven candidates competing for just 35,000 votes, or about one quarter of the votes cast in this November’s general election.
So, who’s in good position right now? Well, Vincent Orange has to be taken very seriously at this point. $191,000 is a huge pile of money to spend in the next seven weeks, which could come out a couple different ways: print and public display ad buys, get out the vote efforts on and near election day, potentially even a week-of-election TV ad, though that would be fairly expensive for an At-Large seat. The other interesting thing about Orange’s donors is that many of them are out of state (133 of 225), and for the maximum allowed by law of $1,000 (182 of 225), which means those are sources he can’t tap again for additional money.
In a month that has seen numerous articles in the local news scene on the recent governance of Biddle-backers Vincent Gray and Kwame Brown, it’s not at all surprising that candidates could make hay while the sun shined, but Orange’s massive success seems to be something of a miracle for the beleaguered former Ward 5 councilman.
If we break down the donations by average amount, an interesting picture develops:
Mara and Biddle are getting much larger donations from their donors, while Patterson, Weaver, and Lopez are being more broad-based in their funding spectrum. If they can convince their donors to bring them up to Biddle and Mara’s donation average, things could get mighty interesting as we close in on April 26th.
Other questions are still out there: Will Patterson’s appeal to get on the ballot be successful, or will he be written off? Will Biddle’s boats rise and fall on Brown/Gray’s tides? Can Weaver/Mara/Lopez begin to get enough of the public mindshare with their currently limited funds to make the difference on election day? We’ll see.