Before local election campaigns begin, I’d like to weigh in on the issue of money in local politics. By local politics, I mean races for city, school and special district offices. As someone who has run campaigns for school levy and bonds, a local annexation and as a local candidate, I would like to explain some of the realities of local campaigns.
The dollar amount it takes to run for local office has changed immensely over the years. Voters used to be suspicious of any campaign literature that looked too slick or professionally produced. It was a point of pride to design our own flyers and have them copied at Costco or Office Depot. Now, a serious candidate needs well-designed literature in addition to a website and a presence on social media. While some supplies and services may be donated, it certainly takes more than the $2,000 to $3,000 I used to budget for a levy campaign.
The cost to run a credible and hopefully successful local campaign rises sharply the higher the office and the more viable your opponent. Tukwila is a lower-income area so few of us have a spare $30,000 (or more) to dump into a campaign. Therefore, it is necessary to fundraise. Since state law limits a person’s contributions to $1,000 per election, a candidate has to work hard to raise the necessary funds. Who would you hit up for money if you were running for office? Likely your first thought would be friends, family and co-workers. Would you refuse contributions from any of those people just because they didn’t live in Tukwila? Would you refuse a contribution from a Tukwila business because the owner did not live in Tukwila? Probably not, so why would you hold it against a candidate whose contributions came from outside the city? And raising money in Tukwila is challenging. How many of you have given the $1,000 allowed to your favored candidate? Very few of us contribute even small amounts to local candidates.
I believe there are many good candidates who cannot afford to fund a campaign without asking for contributions. I believe it would be wrong to say only the wealthy can file for local offices. For myself, I look for a candidate whose values are close to mine. I believe that someone who has been involved in the community is more likely to understand our community. I try to assess why a candidate is running and whether there is a true desire to become a public servant.
So please, talk to local candidates, see where they stand, and then contribute to those you support. And don’t denigrate candidates who need to.
— Pam Carter