Switch to District Votes Pays Off for Some : Politics: The change from citywide voting was supposed to make getting elected cheaper, as was the case for two. Others spent more.
The historic shift from citywide to district elections this year was supposed to make it cheaper to win a seat on the Pomona City Council. In some cases, it did.
Just ask political newcomers Paula Lantz and Ken West, who together spent less than $9,000 on their successful campaigns against richer opponents.
But others spent more than ever.
Councilwoman Nell Soto shelled out more money this year running in a district that encompasses one-sixth of the city than she did four years ago running citywide.
Campaign reports filed last week with the city clerk show that Soto raised and spent more than $30,000--about $25 a vote, and more than three times the total raised by her nearest challenger, Bob Jackson. In 1987, Soto won her first victory with a campaign that cost $26,787.
Another council member, Willie White, spent more than twice as much in winning a district election this year than he did in losing a citywide race four years ago. He spent more than $15,000 this year and less than $7,000 in his 1987 campaign.
Voters approved ballot measures last year that junked the old system of electing four City Council members and the mayor by citywide vote. Under the new system--which also enlarges the council--six council members are elected by districts, and only mayoral candidates run citywide.
Proponents of the district system, including Soto, said candidates would be able to run cheaper campaigns, shunning contributions from special interests, since they would need to reach only about 6,700 voters per district, compared to 40,000 citywide.
Despite that, money was the difference in Jackson’s narrow loss to Soto in the April 16 runoff, the defeated candidate said. Soto, a 65-year-old political veteran, beat Jackson, a 33-year-old teacher, in a runoff by a vote of 786 to 727. Jackson said Soto had “her strings attached to the big purses in downtown Los Angeles,” and there was no way he could compete with her ability to raise money.
Soto hired a political consultant and flooded the district with high-quality mailers, Jackson said, while he struggled to compose campaign flyers on a home computer.
At first blush, it appeared that Soto had outstripped Jackson by an even greater margin. In an apparent error in documents filed with the city clerk, Soto listed her total campaign contributions at $74,828. But her husband, former Assemblyman Phil Soto, who serves as her campaign treasurer, said that figure represented funds raised over several years, including money donated for the 1987 City Council campaign.
A review of the supporting documents filed with Soto’s campaign statement shows that she raised $32,068 this year for her council reelection campaign. Jackson raised $9,395.
Soto was unapologetic about outstripping Jackson and other opponents in gathering donations. “If I raised that much money, good for me. . . . Raising money is not a sin,” she said.
The ability to raise money is an important part of politics, added Soto, who raised nearly $75,000 last year in an unsuccessful campaign for county supervisor.
When friends heard that she was in a tough political fight in her City Council race, she said, they came through with contributions. “I’ve been active in politics for 45 years. There are people who make contributions just because they know me and what I represent.”
Soto’s largest contribution, re ceived the day before the April 16 runoff election, was $2,500 from a company headed by Harvey Englander, a political consultant based in Newport Beach.
Soto’s last campaign statement before the runoff listed $15,000 in contributions as of March 31. But her final spending report, which was not due under state regulations until the end of July, showed that a flurry of fund raising in April helped double that amount.
Jackson said that if Soto’s spending had become public before the election, he might have exploited it politically. One of Jackson’s main campaign issues was a charge that Soto accepted contributions from special interests. He proposed at the start of the campaign that all council candidates limit donations to a total of $5,000 because “large contributions from special interest groups obligate candidates.”
Soto rejected Jackson’s proposal as naive, saying that contributions “do not buy a true leader.” She added that she did not intend any deception by filing her final campaign spending reports after the election. “I don’t make the rules,” she said. “I just follow them.”
Soto and White were the only council candidates to raise and spend more than $10,000. White’s $15,000 campaign exceeded the combined expenditures of his three opponents in the district vote.
White said the district system may not reduce campaign spending, but does make it easier for candidates to reach voters. Candidates can use their money more effectively, he said, and those whose campaigns are not well-financed have the option of walking districts and meeting voters.
Lantz spent less than $6,000 in her race, and West spent even less, about $3,000, compared to more than $7,000 by his opponent. Lantz spent $3.37 per vote and West, $4.08.
Lantz said she had enough money for two mailers and a newspaper ad for the primary and another mailer for the runoff. Even if she had had more money, Lantz said, “I don’t think I would have done anything more. I felt pretty comfortable with what I was able to do.”
In the citywide mayoral campaign, Mayor Donna Smith spent more than $46,000, ultimately defeating Councilman Tomas Ursua in a runoff. Ursua, who spent more than $30,000, and Smith both said they are concerned about the amount of money being spent on campaigns. Smith spent $5.84 per vote, and Ursua spent $4.21.
Ursua said campaign expenses may be spiraling upward. “It’s something I’m going to be watching closely,” he said. “I would hate to see elections come down to just who raises the most money.”
Ursua said the $30,000 he spent for his citywide mayoral campaign “was probably the lowest amount you can run a campaign for and still be a contender.”
Smith said she was rebuffed when she proposed in an earlier mayoral election that candidates voluntarily limit campaign spending. She said ceilings of $10,000 for district council races and $40,000 for the mayoral contest might be appropriate.
“There does need to be a reasonable spending limit,” she said. “The best fund-raiser isn’t always the best candidate.”
Pomona Council Candidate Spending
Amount Amount Primary Runoff Raised spent votes votes Council District 1 Bob Jackson $9,395 $8,529 450 727 Reyes Rachel Madrigal $1,323 $1,614 208 Timothy Smith $1,211 $1,433 79 Nell Soto $32,068 $30,857 444 786 Council District 4 Jerry A. Keane 0 0 40 Paula H. Lantz $6,723 $5,696 518 1,171 Penni Moffatt $3,477 $7,025 424 Rebecca A. Ryan $1,247 $1,217 286 Bill Shelton $4,946 $4,824 475 818 Council District 5 Charles Blanton $8,194 $7,251 444 Ken West $3,157 $3,093 759 Council District 6 Eddie Cortez $8,642 $6,600 475 Stephen Quintero * * 59 Bob Stoddard $3,098 $3,119 612 Willie White $15,139 $15,355 1,158 Mayoral candidates (ran citywide) Stewart A. Alexander $361 $87 274 Wayne S. Fowler $0 $0 146 Hal Jackson ** ** 1,025 Donna Smith $43,017 $46,761 3,419 4,584 Abe Tapia Sr. $2,095 $2,080 806 Tomas Ursua $27,681 $30,139 2,670 4,486
Amount per vote Council District 1 Bob Jackson $7.25 Reyes Rachel Madrigal $7.76 Timothy Smith $18.14 Nell Soto $25.09 Council District 4 Jerry A. Keane 0 Paula H. Lantz $3.37 Penni Moffatt $16.57 Rebecca A. Ryan $4.25 Bill Shelton $3.73 Council District 5 Charles Blanton $16.33 Ken West $4.08 Council District 6 Eddie Cortez $13.89 Stephen Quintero ** Bob Stoddard $5.10 Willie White $13.25 Mayoral candidates (ran citywide) Stewart A. Alexander $0.32 Wayne S. Fowler 0 Hal Jackson ** Donna Smith $5.84 Abe Tapia Sr. $2.58 Tomas Ursua $4.21
* Raised and spent less than $1,000
** Not available
Note: Winners’ names appear in boldface.
Source: Candidates’ statements on file with City Clerk