Political Climate with Mark Simon: Who’s winning the campaign cash race for Redwood City council?

in Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate

The latest campaign spending reports in the Redwood City Council race show businesswoman and Planning Commissioner Giselle Hale continues to out-raise her opponents by a substantial amount – almost twice as much as the next nearest candidate, grassroots activist Diana Reddy.

And community activist Jason Galisatus, who entered the race late, raised a remarkable amount of campaign money in a shortened period of time.

Hale has raised a total of $78,166 for the campaign, including $29,220 during the most recent reporting period, which ran from July 1 through September 22. The deadline to file reports for that period was last week.

The surprise in the latest set of spending reports is Reddy, who has raised $46,941 for the campaign, including $18,048 during the latest reporting period.

While many of her reported contributions were in small amounts of less than $100, Reddy has raised more than one-third of her campaign funds — $17,838 – from only two sources: herself and Julie Pardini, the founder and moderator of the Facebook page “Redwood City Residents Say What,” which Pardini has used as a platform to advance Reddy’s candidacy.

Reddy has made a personal loan to the campaign of $5,000 and has contributed another $5,398 in in-kind donations. Pardini has donated $7,440 to Reddy’s campaign.

PARDINI’S CAMPAIGN REPORTING VIOLATION: Pardini also has donated an additional $4,000 to three other candidates — $2,000 to small business owner Christina Umhofer, $1,500 to accountant and community volunteer Rick Hunter and $500 to Planning Commissioner Ernie Schmidt.

That brings Pardini’s total campaign contributions in this election to $11,440, which, under state campaign laws, qualifies her as a major donor. As such, she is required to organize her own campaign committee and file a separate form reporting her donation activities.

She has failed to do so.

Pardini also failed to file a major donor report in 2015, when she donated $12,000 to the unsuccessful city council candidacy of Tania Sole.

Asked about her failure to file the campaign statements, Pardini, with characteristic forthrightness, said she was unaware of the requirement and that she would correct what she acknowledged was a mistake.

“What’s done is done,” she said. “It’s just carelessness on my part. I was told it was not my personal responsibility to file. Whatever I have to do, I have to do. … I need to call my accountant and will not only be reporting for this campaign, but the previous one as well. I’m glad you’re telling me this.”

THE MONEY RACE: Meanwhile, back at the race for campaign contributions, Galisatus came in a strong third, having raised $39,323 during the 83-day period covered by the latest report, all of it in direct dollar contributions.

Schmidt has raised a total of $28,259, all of it during the 83-day reporting period, since he was a late entrant into the race. Nearly half the money he raised was a personal loan he made to his campaign of $12,500.

Umhofer has raised a total of $27,781, including $11,576 during the reporting period.

Hunter has raised a total of $25,538 for the campaign, including $14,886 during the period.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, incumbent Vice Mayor Diane Howard raised the least amount of money — a total of $22,837 for the campaign and $18,672 for the reporting period. This includes a $5,000 loan from her husband, Dr. Steve Howard.

THERE’S MONEY, AND THEN THERE’S CASH: As a 19-year incumbent, Howard undoubtedly has the highest voter name recognition and the most extensive network of supporters, built over more than two decades of civic involvement. That would seem to require less from her in terms of campaign spending.

It is likely, however, that neither Howard nor any of the other candidates is widely known, given the relatively anonymous nature of local politics everywhere and the great majority of people who pay little or no attention to the city council.

Similarly, it is clear that Hunter and Umhofer are relying on their own extensive personal connections to balance the fundraising of Hale, Galisatus and Reddy.

It is equally clear that Hale and Galisatus, in particular, are planning on a more traditional approach to the campaign, raising substantial funds to pay for extensive voter outreach in terms of mail and other forms of contact.

Both of them have the most background in the nuts and bolts of campaigning, having worked on political campaigns in support of other candidates.

With ballots arriving in homes in a week and with only a month to Election Day, the campaign could come down to who has contacted voters the most, and that would tend to favor the candidates who have the most money on hand for the final days of the campaign.

That would be Hale, who began the last stretch of the campaign with $53,868 in cash on hand, and Galisatus, who had $29,744.

In descending order, the other candidates and the amount of cash they had on hand as of September 22 are: Howard, $18,310; Umhofer, $17,078; Reddy, $14,902; Schmidt, $14,369; and Hunter, $11,353.

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.