Alexandria Times: First quarter campaign finance reports released
Mayor Allison Silberberg raised $15,000 more than her challenger in the mayoral election, Vice Mayor Justin Wilson, in the first quarter of 2018, according to campaign finance reports that were made public Tuesday morning, though Wilson has raised more total funds and has more cash on hand.
Campaign finance reports for the first quarter of 2018, covering the period Jan. 1 through March 31, are available on vpap.org. In these reports, candidates disclose how much money their campaigns have raised, who their donors are, what they’ve spent and where they’ve spent it.
In the first quarter of 2018, Silberberg raised $53,127, while Wilson took in $38,075, according to the latest financial report.
At this point in the race overall – encompassing total funds minus expenditures – Silberberg has $40,939 cash on hand, and Wilson has $63,082.
In the first quarter of 2018, Silberberg received donations from 276 individual donors, while Wilson took in funds from 228 donors. Wilson began receiving contributions in July 2017, however, and received another $59,588 during that timeframe from 197 additional donations.
Both candidates said they are happy with their campaigns’ financial statuses at this point.
“We have a much lower average contribution than [Silberberg] does, and we’re sitting on about $23,000 more than she does going into the final stretch of the campaign,” Wilson said. “We’re pretty excited. Especially for a non-incumbent running against an incumbent, I couldn’t be more happy.”
Wilson announced his candidacy in November and said he’s been fundraising since then. Silberberg formally announced her run for reelection in January, and said she didn’t start focusing on fundraising or campaigning until 2018.
“I didn’t do any real fundraising between the last campaign and this,” Silberberg said. “I just started fundraising recently in the last month or two. Other people I felt were focused on other campaigns, and I was just so focused on serving as mayor that I really wasn’t continuing to fundraise.”
Despite the gap in when candidates started seriously campaigning, Wilson said he considers himself ahead of Silberberg in fundraising.
“She had a couple of events in the early part of the year, and we had events in the late part of [last] year so I think it’s a timing issue, but overall we’ve been significantly ahead,” Wilson said. “And again, she’s incumbent. I’m running against the incumbent mayor of the city, so it’s understandable that she would have some fundraising advantages that we wouldn’t have.”
Alexandria Democratic Committee Chair Clarence Tong said the financial reports demonstrate that it’s a pretty even match between Wilson and Silberberg.
“I’m not surprised by the funding on both sides. They’re both running for an office to be a leader of the city, and they have been able to raise more than most of the council candidates,” Tong said.
By occupation, Silberberg’s number one donor pool, which has contributed about $50,000 to her campaign, is labeled “miscellaneous” on the VPAP website. This category includes – in order from the largest donations – retired, nonprofit employees, nonwage earners, artists/authors, etc.
Wilson’s greatest donating pool by occupation is labeled “political,” and has contributed about $20,000.
Both Wilson and Silberberg said they have personal policies wherein they do not accept campaign contributions from organizations that are working with the city and bringing business before city council.
On the expenditure side, Silberberg spent $18,944 in the first quarter and Wilson spent $11,040. They both said they expect their campaigns’ greatest expenses to be direct mail efforts to voters. Tong said this is not unusual and is often the greatest expense in local elections.
Silberberg said most of the vendors she uses for campaigning are local Alexandria business owners. She also said her campaign is composed entirely of volunteers.
“I’m thrilled to have support from all across our city and very grateful to all those who have given not just their treasure, but also as volunteers. We’re an all-volunteer campaign team, so every dollar that comes in goes a long way,” Silberberg said.
Wilson said his campaign is composed mostly of volunteers, with a paid manager brought in for the final few months leading up to the election.
In the run for city council, newcomers have taken the lead in gathering funds.
The candidate with the most first quarter funding is Matt Feely with $68,554, followed by Dak Hardwick with $32,767, John Chapman with $26,181 and Elizabeth Bennett-Parker with $24,161. Of Matt Feely’s $68,554, however, $60,025 is self-financed.
Kevin Dunne has raised the fewest funds, at $200.
“Council ranges a little bit more widely,” Tong said. “What the financial reports can tell you is who’s been able to garner grass roots support and also demonstrates who will be able to communicate their message citywide.”
Feely said it was important for a newcomer like him to have the funds to send out information to voters, especially since he has not been living in the city as long as some of his competitors, due to his career in the Navy.
“I am determined to serve [on council], and I view service as not only something that requires dedication, but requires sacrifice, and I see my financial contribution in essence as yet another sacrifice, just as my time is a sacrifice,” Feely said.
Feely said he based how much money to put into his campaign on what he’s heard candidates have spent in the past.
During the last election cycle, the top spenders of the city council candidates were Bob Wood with $125,241, John Chapman with $59,931 and Wilson with $42,776.
“At the end of the day, it’s still a local election,” Tong said. “It’s about getting the support of your neighbors, and who can get the supporters out. I wouldn’t be surprised if most candidates raise less than $100,000 before the primary.”