Big money is not a big influence in this year’s Ashland City Council race. Only five of the 11 candidates have raised or spent more than the $750 that triggers a filing requirement.
Information about donations and expenditures for this story was collected from the Oregon Secretary of State website, the city of Ashland website and candidate interviews.
Challenger Tonya Graham, running for Position 2, received the most contributions and in-kind donations, adding up to a total of $4,389.20. She spent $3,765.90 on various web and printing materials.
An Ashland ordinance adopted in 2009 states that candidates must not spend more than .246 times the number of registered voters on April 1 of each year. This year that amount is $3,869.
Surplus funds can be donated to a charity, political party, another candidate or saved for the next election cycle, according to the 2018 Campaign Finance Manual.
Position 2 incumbent Michael Morris received a total of $2,775 in contributions and in-kind donations. He spent $1,595.60 on various print materials such as signs and two advertisements in the Ashland Sneak Preview.
The third Position 2 candidate, Theodore White, said he has not “raised or spent a single dime” on his campaign.
Jackie Bachman, running to keep her Position 3 seat, received a total of $1,323.34 and spent $1,065.20 on various print materials such as signs and advertising in the Ashland Sneak Preview.
Her challenger Julie Akins, in response to a question about her campaign finances in an email interview, didn’t give a total. She answered, in part: “We had a small but committed group of citizens who gave 10 and 20 dollars to help us in this very grassroots campaign. ... It’s the time people gave which was our biggest asset on this campaign — that and shoe leather walking the sweet streets.”
Al Willstatter, also running for Position 3, said he’s been offered money but declined it.
“I’m not spending anything,” Willstatter said. “I’m taking money out of politics. I’m not in the voter’s pamphlet, I have not accepted any money and I will not accept any money. I’m fully independent.”
On the form each candidate must sign pledging to not spend more than $3,698, Willstatter wrote, “I will only accept your support and energy.”
Position 4 incumbent Stefani Seffinger said she received a total of $900 in contributions and spent $1,277. She said she covered the difference out of her own pocket.
Her Position 4 challenger, former Councilor Carol Voisin, wasn’t eager to release any specific information.
“I’m not going to give you that kind of data … It’s well under the limit,” Voisin said. “If you don’t spend more than $750, you don’t have to even file with the Secretary of State. If you spend more than $750 you have to file, and I filed, and I’m well under the limit for submitting reports.”
Oregon candidates do not have to report finance details unless they spend or receive more than $3,500, according to the finance manual.
Stephen Jensen, running to retain his Position 6 seat, said he raised $2,800 and spent $2,309, making him the council candidate raising the second-highest amount.
One of his two opponents, George Kramer, said he self-funded his campaign. He said he’s spent a total of $645, including $100 spent to get his information in the voter’s pamphlet and the rest spent on signs and shipping.
He said he’s run in the past and it’s been his experience raising larger amounts of money is unnecessary and just means filing a lot of paperwork.
“I’m really happy that I signed that pledge,” Kramer said. “I haven’t had a problem spending less.”
Randy Dolinger, the third Position 6 candidate, said he borrowed $100 from a friend and that’s all he spent.
“I am hoping the free stuff, the interviews in the Sneak Preview and the Rogue Valley Messenger, and my two letters in the Tidings, and talking to people every day in the cafés and the park will be enough to ensure my success,” Dolinger said.
Once the $750 threshold is reached, candidates have a week to file with the Secretary of State. Any additional expense after is required to be filed a week after the transaction is made or:
“A transaction that occurs prior to the 42nd day before the election and has not been filed by the 43rd day before the election, is due not later than the 30th day or by the 35th day before the election, whichever date occurs first,” according to the finance manual.
Once the $3,500 threshold is exceeded, candidates have a week to report detailed information.
Parks & Recreation
The campaigns for candidates running for Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission are very low budget. Some candidates haven’t made any efforts to raise money at all.
Expenses or contributions above $750 require the candidate to file with the Secretary of State. Amounts totaling more than $3,500 for the campaign must be reported no more than a week after the transaction.
However, candidates running for positions within the city of Ashland sign a pledge stating that they will not spend more than $3,869.00 on their campaign.
Michael Gardiner, running for re-election to Position 3, told the Tidings he has spent $540.66 on signs, fliers and voters' pamphlet fees for the general election.
Jim Bachman, running for Position 4, said he spent $475 on his campaign and is self-funded.
Rick Landt, running for Position 5, said he's spent about $472.
Julian Bell, also running for Position 4, said he expects to spend less than $150 total for his campaign and is also self-funded. “I haven’t made any effort to raise any money,” Bell said.
Timothy Kelly said he received about $125 and spent all of it on flyers and to get into the voter’s pamphlet.
Howard McEwan is running for Position 5. He did not respond to inquiries before the print deadline.
(Nov. 5: This story varies from the print version published Nov. 5, which in the Parks & Recreation section incorrectly included fundraising amounts reported during a recall election earlier in the year as if they were for the general election.)
(Nov. 5: Headline changed. The original headline incorrectly said one candidate had reached the fundraising limit. There is no fundraising limit, only an expenditure limit. The candidate raised more money than the allowable maximum expenditure, but spent slightly less than the maximum.)