The Good, the Bad and the Money

What Tempe city candidates raised in 2012.

I recently came across an article (link here) about the final total for money raised by candidates in the 2012 Tempe City elections. I’m a pretty visual person, so numbers mean more to me on a chart, so let’s take a quick look at what the final totals show.

 

 

These are the numbers presented in the article and as noted, I’ve included any money that was carried over from previous campaigns where appropriate. In the end, this is the amount of money each candidate had at their disposal for the 2012 election cycle. The “MFI” on the end? That’s the current amount of a family’s median household income in Tempe. I didn’t include it for any editorial purposes except to give some frame of reference for the amounts we’re looking at in this chart. It seems most council candidates are in the $50K-$80K range and the two final mayoral candidates really broke new ground for fundraising. Of course, there’s more to every story.

 

Now, here’s the vote totals for each candidate. Note I only used the general election totals for Monti, Mitchell, Foreman and Granville. Why? Any of them could have won outright in the primary and most of their voters are logically the same between the two elections. I tend to view your effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) on the number of votes you received in the election that either won you your office or kicked you out of the running. The point of doing this of course is to see what the cost per vote then is…

 

I think it would amaze anyone that it cost over $15 per vote to get elected mayor of Tempe. (Perhaps more so than the fact both candidates practically raising as many dollars as there are Tempe residents.) To me, there is one more compelling observation from this chart. Corey Woods (the highest vote getter in either the primary or general election) spent the second lowest amount on his votes. Why and how are topics for another story. But it shows that money isn’t necessarily the key to winning in Tempe. And finally…

 

One of the most curious parts of the article is noting the amount of money candidates spent themselves on their campaigns. It appears the three incumbents didn’t need to do this because they had money left over from previous campaigns (and had the name ID which provided immediate fundraising muscle). But I am shocked by the amount of money candidates personally invested in some of these races. Of particular interest is newly elected Councilman Kolby Granville who apparently chipped in a whopping 64% of his total campaign account (to the tune of $53,423). I have no problems with people spending their money as they wish – even when it comes to campaigns. I am somewhat concerned though when that percentage is over two thirds of their campaign total funding. And in this case, nearly more than the median family income in Tempe.  But most of all, it is troubling that a candidate who talked about “refusing all special-interest money” (link here) would instead, accept perhaps the single biggest special interest contribution in the history of Tempe City politics. The “special-interest” in this case being the candidate himself.

A Quick Review of Tempe’s 2012 Elections

Now the dust has settled on Tempe’s 2012 elections, here’s a few observations:

  • Timing and mobilization are keys in closed races. Mark Mitchell wins the Mayor’s race for two main reasons: 1) The Monti campaign’s unrelenting negative attacks backfired while being unfortunately timed to an external investigation that wreaked of collusion (whether it was or not is irrelevant – perception is 9/10’s of the law in politics) and 2) the Democrat’s local GOTV (get out the vote) mobilization effort simply got more early ballots to the polls on election day than did those working for Monti. The assumption here being that people who held their ballots were far more prone to vote for Mitchell because of reason 1.
  • Kolby Granville wins simply by outworking and outspending Dick Foreman. There’s an interesting analysis that could be had over the style and tone of each of the campaigns (which we’ll do in the future), but in races like this one, “pounding the pavement” (and the mailbox in Kolby’s case) matters more than your history or record of service.

Now on to some musings:

  • Do you know what your record is? I’m always bewildered by incumbents who run for re-election or higher office and do not articulate their records. For example, when you are a council member, EVERY vote you cast is an accomplishment.  You get to take credit for the things you supported and you get to explain why you voted against the things you didn’t. Does this mean you solely were responsible for them?  Of course not. But you DO get to take some credit for them. And in most cases, they’re are the primary things you can point back to as a candidate of things you DID. Why more candidates opt out of using their voting records as the primary way for them to explain their service just doesn’t make sense. And what I personally find even more confusing is when they choose to use ambiguous, superfluous themes instead and never focus on the specifics of their accomplishments. It makes me think they don’t understand what it is they’ve been doing. Bottom line, when you’re an incumbent, your voting record is key to telling people how and why you’ve served.
  • Do you know what your record would be? This also applied to new candidates, too. I am surprised at the number of candidates who don’t (or worse can’t) list out council votes from the last 6, 12 or 24 months and say how they would have voted and why. I would think this should be a primary part of their campaigns. Not only would it show they’re paying attention, but it would also provide an excellent opportunity for them to prove to voters that they have a command of the issues and can articulate them to the community.
  • Consultants are expensive. And bad ones cost even more. I am really shocked at the amount of money candidates spend on local races. I know postage and signs are expensive. But not much else is. Spending over $50,000 or $60,000 when around 20,000 people vote is simply bad management of funds. And as I always say, if you want to see how someone will govern, look at how they run their campaign. Burning through gobs of cash in a campaign is usually a sign of things to come.

2012: The year Tempe caught up with the rest…

This is the first of what I hope is many posts to TempeThoughts.com. Thanks to Joseph Lewis, the site’s founder, for asking me to contribute my “two cents”… I hope you’ll find them worth more than that of course!

As the 2012 Tempe election cycle comes to a close (at least the council races are officially over), I think most voters who have paid any attention to these races would agree that we all are left with wanting better from many of our candidates. In full disclosure, I am friends with two of the candidates for mayor (both Linda Spears and Mark Mitchell).  And as a result, have offered advice and suggestions to both. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be objective with my musings. I invite our readers to be the judge of that.

In lieu of the final count for mayor being known (as of this writing, over 2,000 provisional ballots are yet to be accounted for) we can safely say that this was the year that Tempe became victim to one of the oldest campaign tricks in the proverbial book: making the alternative unacceptable. Put simply, make the person running against you seem like an idiot.

This tactic is the premise behind “negative campaigning” and we all know what people, especially political consultants, say about it: we HATE it but it WORKS!  It’s my personal belief (from years of working on dozens of national, state and local campaigns) that they work ONLY if the “victim” of such attacks is running an incoherent or  incompetent campaign.

I’m going to try and keep my posts short so we’ll leave it at that for this one. Obviously, we have a lot to discuss and dissect in the days and weeks ahead. This should be fun and I hope you’ll read and comment along. Thanks for tuning in!