Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The reality of the money it takes to get elected

The headline in the TC today is "New councillors' campaigns in city surpass $26,000: Concerns raised over political spending levels".

No one should be surprised that Lisa Helps, Shellie Gudgeon and Ben Isitt were the big spenders in the fall elections.   The 2011 election is one of the few times in a very long time that a number of incumbents were defeated and for this to happen the new candidates needed something to place them ahead of the incumbents.  

There are three different ways to get the support to get elected: notoriety, money and volunteers.

Back in the late spring and early summer of 2011 I was seriously considering running for council but I decided against it because I set $20,000 as the bottom line of committed money I had on hand before July 1st.   My ideal goal was to know I had $30,000 available.   I got commitments of only around $10,000 to $15,000 before my deadline.  Given the fact I could not find a good campaign manager and did not have the money, I chose not to run.

Here is the list of the money spent by candidates and how they finished in the election:

  1. Shellie Gudgeon       $28,028.36  7th 6904 votes
  2. Lisa Helps            $26,819.36  3rd 8523
  3. Ben Isitt             $15,579.65  4th 8419
  4. Charlayne Thorton-Joe $10,776.52  2nd 8803
  5. Marianne Alto         $10,358.00  5th 7493
  6. Philippe Lucas         $9,674.37 11th 5719
  7. Chris Coleman          $9,239.00  8th 6793
  8. Geoff Young            $9,107.10  1st 8940
  9. John Luton             $6,463.40  9th 6343
  10. Lynn Hunter            $4,598.51 10th 6101
  11. Pam Madoff             $4,335.00  6th 7321
  12. Suhki Lalli            $2,564.00 13th 3993
  13. Rose Henry               $546.46 12th 4866
  14. Aaron Hall               $511.29 15th 2777
  15. John C Turner            $317.94 16th 2014
  16. Sean Murray              $195.69 19th  727
  17. Jon Valentine             $35.00 20th  682
  18. Saul Anderson              $0.00 18th 1055
  19. Linda McGrew          incomplete 14th 3923
  20. Robin Kimpton          not filed 17th 1519

There is a correlation between effort spend to get elected and results.   All the incumbents had the benefit of media coverage which has always put them miles ahead of challengers.  The only way a new person can overcome this is through more effort during the campaign and that means money or volunteers.

The ones that stand out because how they finished is not in sync with their spending are Geoff Young, Pam Madoff and Philippe Lucas.   Geoff Young I think really benefited from his position on the bridge and how much coverage he got for that.  Both Geoff and Pam benefit from being the two longest serving councillors in Victoria history.  Philippe was elected in 2008 as a Green with the party name on the ballot, in 2011 he ran as an independent and did not have a lot of volunteers.

I use a rule of thumb that an active volunteer is worth about $100 in donations.   100 volunteers is worth $10,000 in donations.   The candidates I saw out there with a lot of volunteers were Lisa Helps, Ben Isitt, Marianne Alto, and Rose Henry.

Two of the defeated incumbents were only on their first term, they did not have as a long a media track record as the others on council.   In the case of Lynn Hunter, even though she was former MP from 1988 to 1993, she was not a very visible or vocal councillor in the media.   You have to be in your 40s or older to remember as MP.  If I were to judge the value of incumbency, I think is worth roughly $4000 for your first term, $2000 for your second and then $1000 per term after that to a maximum of $12,000 in value.

One thing I find interesting in this list of money spent and the votes the candidates received, I can not find any strong co-relation between being endorsed by the Victoria Labour Council or not.   Alto, Helps, Hunter, Isitt, Lucas, Luton and Madoff were endorsed and even though five incumbents were endorsed, three of them were defeated.  
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