Political Climate with Mark Simon: Giselle Hale has big lead in campaign fundraising

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In the hotly contested race for the Redwood City Council, where candidates are predicting a campaign that could cost as much as $90,000, Planning Commissioner and first-time candidate Giselle Hale has raised more than $48,000, nearly double that of her nearest competitor.

Labor and housing advocate Diana Reddy raised more than $28,000, including a $5,000 loan she made to the campaign. In addition, she spent $1,870 on items to get her campaign up and running.

In terms of direct, non-candidate contributions, Hale out-raised Reddy $48,946 to $14,681, more than three times as much.

Hale, a director at Facebook, relied heavily on contacts within the technology industry and colleagues and top executives at Facebook for the majority of the contributions she received, according to campaign finance disclosure statements for January 1 through June 30.

Hale raised more than $19,000 from individuals with ties to the technology industry, more than 40 percent of her donors.

It would mark the first time individuals from the technology sector have played such a substantial role in a city election. Hale is the first high-profile city council candidate directly tied to an industry that rivals property development as the dominant economic influence in Redwood City.

Hale spent more than $8,800 in the first half of the year and had $44,281 in cash on hand as the campaign began in earnest. Reddy had $18,620 in cash on hand.

Community activist Christina Umhofer and former Planning Commissioner Rick Hunter and raised nearly identical amounts. Umhofer raised $10,773 and Hunter raised $10,652. Umhofer had $9,279 in cash on hand as of June 30; Hunter had $9,891.

Of the five candidates who raised money during the period, incumbent Diane Howard raised the least — $4,165. That’s 10 percent of what Hale raised, but as the incumbent, Howard starts with considerable advantages in name recognition. She finished the reporting period with $8,217 in cash on hand.

Neither community activist Jason Galisatus nor Planning Commissioner Ernie Schmidt reported raising any money, both of them having announced their candidacy after June 30.

PARDINI ANTES UP: One individual was the single largest donor combined in this fundraising cycle — Julie Pardini, founder and moderator of the busy Facebook page “Redwood City Residents Say: What?”

Pardini gave a total of $6,970 to three candidates – Reddy ($3,970), Umhofer ($2000) and Hunter ($1,000).

Pardini has done this before. In 2015, she gave more than $12,000 to unsuccessful council candidate Tania Sole. She donated that much because “we were expecting more contributions and I kept picking up the slack,” Pardini.

She said she is supporting Reddy, Umhofer and Hunter this campaign because they are “good candidates” with a grassroots approach to running for office.

She said she has worked with Reddy for four years on a host of issues and “I’ve stood by her and seen her work.” Umhofer “has done some wonderful things for housing.” She doesn’t know Hunter as well “but I trust his judgment” as demonstrated during his tenure on the Planning Commission.

Asked if she thought the city is going in the wrong direction, Pardini said, “I don’t know what the right direction is. I know we have a lot of problems. … Some of the problems are regional, but I’m thinking some of them are the result of decisions that were made innocently but have led to an imbalance in the city.” In particular, she is concerned that rising rents are driving residents away or into economic distress.

JUST AMONG FRIENDS: None of the candidates says he or she is running on a slate, but some of them seem to like each other.

Hunter received $100 from Umhofer and $250 from Schmidt. Reddy received $100 from Umhofer. And Umhofer received $100 from Reddy.

THERE IS OTHER STUFF GOING ON: With San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine’s recent decision not to run for termed-out Jerry Hill’s state Senate seat, the scramble already is on for that 2020 election. Redwood City Councilwoman Shelly Masur is already running, as is ex-Assemblymember Sally Lieber. Rumored to be looking at it are Josh Becker, venture capitalist and CEO of a firm that provides data analytics for the legal profession, and an unsuccessful Assembly candidate in 2016; and Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff.

SHOWING UP: The same group of high school students who put together the massively successful anti-gun March for Our Lives on March 24 are planning another event Saturday, also at Redwood City’s Courthouse Square, to register new voters and inform students about how to vote, particularly when away at college. The event is from 6 to 9 p.m.

FAREWELL: It was my distinct pleasure to get to know Jack Bunzel in the latter years. Former president of San Jose State University when I was a student there and subsequently one of the token liberals at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, Jack was many things – social scholar, political scientist, civil rights advocate, baseball lover — but he reveled in being the quintessential raconteur. He performed regularly at local venues in a well-honed comedy act that harkened to the great stand-up social commentators of the 1960s. He died a few weeks ago and I will miss our luncheons and his gentle swipes at the political condition.

Contact Mark Simon at mark.simon24@yahoo.com.

*The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Climate Online.