Three San Diego City Council candidates have surpassed or are closing in on the $200,000 mark in their respective campaigns--two of them because of massive infusions of their own money--while candidate Ron Roberts has dramatically out-raised all other contenders, campaign finance reports showed Thursday.
With each of those high-spending candidates likely to spend substantially more during the campaign's closing days, the final price tag in those contests will be among the highest ever for City Council elections, city election officials said. The record for spending in a council race was established by Abbe Wolfsheimer in her 1985 victory over Councilman Bill Mitchell, a campaign in which she spent $313,099, including $236,016 of her own money. With the exception of Wolfsheimer's campaign, the $200,000 mark has rarely been passed in recent council elections--and only by incumbents.
Thursday's reports, filed with the city clerk's office, show that while 2nd District candidate Roberts has relied on financial support from a wide range of contributors to approach the $200,000 figure, 8th District contenders Michael Aguirre and Bob Filner have neared that financial threshold only because of their personal wealth.
The reports show that, as of Oct. 17, Roberts had received contributions totaling $195,765.89--nearly four times more than his opponent, Byron Wear, and more than $75,000 more than any other candidate in the four council races on next month's ballot.
Despite that huge lead in contributions, however, Roberts is not the biggest spender among the eight council finalists. That dubious distinction belongs to lawyer Aguirre, who has spent $201,174.53 to date on his campaign, more than two-thirds of that, or $144,390.64, representing his own personal funds.
Filner, meanwhile, has loaned his campaign $99,000 to date and has spent $171,457.93 overall--thereby providing compelling evidence that the two candidates' campaign spending frenzy, which Filner has referred to as an "arms race," shows no signs of abating as the 8th District contest enters the final 10 days.
Though there is a major spending gap between the two candidates in the 2nd District race, the amounts spent to date by the candidates in the three other council campaigns are relatively equal, the finance reports show.
However, there are clear differences in the way the candidates attained that spending parity. In the 4th District race, for example, candidates Wes Pratt and the Rev. George Stevens had spent about $40,000 and $46,000, respectively, as of Oct. 17.
But the reports show that Pratt has out-raised Stevens, 2 1/2-to-1, during the last seven weeks and, as of last week, had a much larger cash balance remaining in his campaign treasury. During the Aug. 30 to Oct. 17 period covered by Thursday's report, Pratt, now on leave from his position as executive assistant to County Supervisor Leon Williams, received $52,657.18 in contributions, compared to only $20,615 for Stevens, an associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church and an aide to Rep. Jim Bates (D-San Diego).
Pratt's overall contribution total, as of Oct. 17, was $70,650.78, of which $30,555.84 had not yet been spent. In contrast, Stevens had raised $52,504 and had $4,419 remaining in his campaign treasury as of last Saturday.
In addition to being the overall contribution leader, Roberts, an architect and former chairman of the San Diego City Planning Commission, also out raised all other candidates during the seven-week period covered by Thursday's report, receiving $88,423.49 in donations. Roughly half of those contributions--some of which were received and spent prior to the September primary--came from developers, architects, land-use attorneys, real estate agents and other development interests.
'Indication of Support'
"I'd like to think that the financial support is an indication of support for my campaign that will be reflected at the polls," Roberts said. "It tells me that people apparently like what they see when they look at this campaign."
Roberts' opponent, Wear, a public relations consultant, raised $30,922 during the last seven weeks and $54,035 overall, the reports show. In addition, Wear also has loaned his campaign $16,910.81. Including the funds spent on his first-place primary finish, Wear's expenditure total to date is $67,016.29, a total far outdistanced by Roberts' $183,251 total.
In the 6th District race, lawyer Bob Ottilie has outpaced his opponent, lawyer Bruce Henderson, by a nearly 3-to-2 margin, raising $120,280.02 overall, compared to Henderson's $75,079 total. However, in part because of a $25,710 loan that Henderson made to his campaign, the gap in the two candidates' spending totals is narrower than that, with Ottilie having spent $106,166.97 and Henderson, $91,897.13.