Despite the impression you might have had from the presidential campaigns, not everyone is drowning in money. Some candidates, like the ones vying for three seats on the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, are merely wading in money—and a few of them are financially drier than their counterparts.
Exactly two months after this printing, those races will be decided. And the resulting outcome could give the county its first Republican-leaning board—if you disregard the stipulation that county supervisors are technically non-partisan—since former supervisors Harry Ovitt and Jerry Lenthall were ousted in the 2008 race.
This go around will see the battle between Adam Hill and Ed Waage and a return bout between Jim Patterson and Debbie Arnold. Then there’s Frank Mecham, who’s running unopposed to maintain his seat as the District 1 county supervisor.
In the 2008 election, Patterson—the incumbent supervisor representing District 5 who doesn’t have a reputation as a strong campaigner—squeaked out a victory over Arnold with just 240 votes.
Following the squeaker, word on the street was that Patterson had a tough fight ahead of him, and he’ll have to campaign hard. It might have gotten harder since then.
It remains unclear how a recent redistricting process will impact the election. County supervisors debated ad nauseum last year over new district boundary lines, particularly over the lines between Districts 1 and 5. With such a narrow vote spread in 2008, any slight shift in the voter base could have a big impact, and Patterson’s district was shifted, especially in the North County, where more conservative voters live.
According to campaign disclosure records for the first quarter of the year, Arnold handily spanked Patterson as a political fundraiser. So far this year, Arnold has outraised and outspent Patterson three-to-one. (Both candidates raised about the same amount of money in 2011, according to records for that year.)
Arnold took in $79,903 in contributions and spent $62,984 so far this year, according to her financial disclosures. Patterson, on the other hand, raised only $26,582 and spent $19,884.
Much of Patterson’s money came from smaller contributions of about $100, but he took in nearly $10,000 from people who contributed $500 or more, including Supervisor Bruce Gibson, who gave $500.
Patterson spent most of his money on office and printing costs, but he paid $4,000 to his campaign consultant, Tom Fulks Campaign Strategy, based in Sacramento.
His opponent paid more than $16,700 to Meridian Pacific, a Sacramento-based political consulting and public affairs firm that’s represented such people as John McCain and other Republican candidates.
Most of Arnold’s money came from developers, farmers, ranchers, and vintners, including a $1,000 contribution from the president of the California Cattlemen’s Association and $3,298 from the president of Energy Enterprises.
In District 3, where Hill, the incumbent, is defending his seat against Waage, a Pismo Beach city councilman, the financial spread isn’t quite as dramatic. Hill has so far raised $20,623 and spent $15,887 in 2012 (in 2011, he raised $78,202 and spent $22,183, according to financial records for that year). Waage had raised $27,047 as of March 17 and spent $28,580 (in 2011, he raised $14,619 and spent $8,768).
But while Hill’s money this year has come almost entirely from donors, Waage has also relied on $24,500 in loans to his campaign.
Nearly all of Waage’s other contributions were small donations from individuals. His largest payout came from the SEW Local 620 Central Coast Voters out of Santa Barbara, which gave $1,000. Like Arnold, Waage has also hired Meridian Pacific, which he’s paid $13,353.
Despite having lost some supporters who helped him campaign in 2008, Hill received $5,000 from Castlerock Development, a local building company. He also took in small donations from such local organizations as the San Luis Obispo Democratic Club, which gave $100 toward his campaign.
In fact, Hill’s campaign manager, Pat Harris, is also chair of the SLO County Democratic Party. (It should also be noted John Peschong, chairman of the SLO County Republican Party, is a partner with Meridian Pacific.)
Hill also paid a total $2,741 to local campaign consultant Public Policy Solutions.
Mecham’s financial records weren’t available as of press time.
With only two candidates in each race, the election outcomes will be decided in the June 5 presidential primary election.
News Editor Colin Rigley is spends all his political capital on silly T-shirts. Send your contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org.