A $250,000 Election?
The average cost of a winning council campaign has more than doubled in the last five years, from $6,000 to $13,500 (see table, below). Though the best-funded candidate doesn't always win--in Ward Three, Steve Kunselman won his last three races against better-funded opponents--there's no question money helps. Take Jack Eaton. He spent $4,700 when he ran and lost in 2010, $7,500 when he ran and lost again in 2012--and $15,700 when he ran and won in 2013.
Citywide mayoral races cost even more. With John Hieftje retiring after seven terms, Kunselman, Sabra Briere, Sally Hart Petersen, and Christopher Taylor have announced they're running for the job. Petersen estimates that her campaign alone will cost $50,000. Our educated guess is that the mayoral candidates between them will raise at least $150,000, and that the total cost of this year's council races will approach a quarter of a million dollars.
The Observer reviewed public contribution records from 2009 through 2013 to find the city's top donors and spenders (see tables below). We found a lot of crossover--half of the top donors are politicians--and a deep division between supporters and critics of the outgoing mayor.