Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti raised approximately $2.23 million during the first six months of his 2017 reelection campaign, a record-setting sum for incumbent mayors' early contributions in the era of the city's modern campaign-finance system, his campaign reported Friday.
Garcetti's fruitful fundraising effort comes despite his lack of a serious challenger, and brings him within sight of L.A.'s cap for expenditures of private donations, which is about $2.24 million for the general election. Candidates who exceed that limit must forgo public matching funds, a step typically taken only in highly competitive races.
"This is the strongest first campaign report since the current system's been in place," said Bill Carrick, the political consultant at the helm of the mayor's campaign. Carrick said he thought it was unlikely Garcetti would be forced to exceed the city's spending cap. "It's not something that we can see right now," he said.
Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had amassed $1.63 million at the same stage of his 2009 reelection campaign, Carrick said, citing figures from the city Ethics Commission. Previous mayoral candidates also had to cope with lower campaign contribution limits.
News of the mayor's formidable contributions comes as Garcetti is weathering a series of challenges midway through his first term. While his administration secured its first major legislative victory in May with passage of a plan to raise L.A.'s minimum wage to $15, critics say Garcetti has stumbled in his responses to surging homelessness and the controversial police shooting of Ezell Ford, a mentally ill 25-year-old from South L.A. The city is also facing rising crime for the first time in decades.
"It's maybe some timely good news for the mayor given that he's been in a rough patch," said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State L.A. Sonenshein said Garcetti's heavy donations could also help ward off others who might be mulling a run against him.
"The one thing that an incumbent mayor wants is for strong challengers simply to look elsewhere," he said.
No such challengers have emerged, though some have speculated that county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas might enter the race. Asked about his intentions at a luncheon this week, Ridley-Thomas said he had no current plans to challenge Garcetti in 2017, but declined to rule it out.
Questions about Garcetti's performance during his first two years in office did not seem to deter the wide range of donors, in L.A. and elsewhere, who chose to make the maximum legal contribution of $1,400 to his campaign. Among them were sought-after donors in the business community, including a number in the entertainment industry.
Among Garcetti's supporters in the latter category were director Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, both of whom are also serious supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Garcetti also received $1,400 from real-estate mogul Rick Caruso, who has himself been a focus of speculation about a 2017 mayoral run.
Garcetti also received contributions from renowned L.A. philanthropist Eli Broad and Walt Disney Company Chairman and Chief Executive Bob Iger.
Garcetti has spent only $200,000 of the money he has so far raised, according to his campaign's report. Much of that went to Daily Consulting LLC, a Southern California fundraising firm.