Does money talk in race for Hillsboro City Council?
Six candidates are vying for three seats on Hillsboro's city council, and while all of the candidates agree that addressing issues such as homelessness and affordable housing the candidates differ wildly on how — or if — they fundraise for their campaigns.
According to campaign finance records filed with the state, candidate Beach Pace has raised more than $16,000 in her run to claim Hillsboro's Ward 1, the seat of outgoing Council President Darryl Lumaco.
Her opponent, Eric Muehter, hasn't raised a dime.
Pace is CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest, the regional affiliate of the national nonprofit Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
Muehter, a field technology analyst at Oregon Health & Science University, has eschewed campaign fundraising of any kind and has been critical of Pace's fundraising, saying he believes campaigns should be about ideas, not money.
Pace says her donations show support from the community.
"I think it says I have a lot of supporters, and I am grateful for every single one of them," Pace said. "They have taken time to donate their time or their treasure to support me, and that is humbling."
Pace's most high-profile campaign donation came from out of state. Former Tampa, Fl. mayor Pam Iorio donated $250 to Pace's campaign. Iorio, who served two terms as mayor of Tampa from 2003 to 2011, is president and chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the national organization which oversees Pace's nonprofit.
Pace's largest donation came from the campaign of Hillsboro City Councilor Fred Nachtigal, which donated $1,036.52 to Pace's election bid. The Hillsboro Professional Fire Fighters PAC, a political group which represents firefighters in the Hillsboro Fire Department, donated $1,000 and the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce donated $500.
Difference of opinion spark political divide
Muehter has said candidates shouldn't raise large sums of money unless they are seeking state or federal office, telling this newspaper he doesn't believe there is a correlation between spending money on campaign materials and voter support.
"I really hate the signs anyway," Muehter said after filing for the seat in August. "All the junk in your mailbox drives me up the wall. I try my best to ignore them. Just because I saw a sign doesn't make that candidate more or less capable at the job."
Pace, by comparison, has spent more than $2,000 on campaign signs and flyers. Pace moved to Hillsboro from San Jose, Calif., in 2013 and said her campaign has been about getting her name out to voters who may be unfamiliar with her work.
"If you talk to somebody who is well known and lived in Hillsboro their whole life, I don't have that kind of recognition," she said. "I knew I had that deficit and needed to get my name out another way, through marketing and house parties."
Muehter said there's nothing inappropriate with candidates spending their money on campaign signs or flyers, but worried that campaigns with large war chests will keep candidates from running in the future.
"I want to see people from all walks of life be able to participate, but if you have to spend at least several hundred dollars to have a shot at all, and come in with candidates that set a precedent that you have to raise $10,000, $16,000 or $20,000 to run, people will see that as a barrier," he said. "All we will end up with are the candidates who can raise that money: the doctors and business owners and CEOs. While people like me who have those leadership skills and experience, we're not at that level."
Pace doesn't believe that thinking.
"Honestly, you have to have the guts to ask for money," she said. "I've been doing that for 15 years. I worked as a sales rep and a nonprofit CEO, that's all I do … If you have friends, a vision and you do your homework, you can enter politics, and I would encourage them to do so," Pace said.
Some candidates raise thousands, others raise little
The amount of money flowing into Pace's campaign is reminiscent of the 2014 race for Hillsboro City Council, where then-candidate Kyle Allen raised more than $11,000 in his bid for a seat in Ward 2.
Like Muehter, Allen's opponent Monte Akers was critical of Allen's fundraising. Allen won that race and is currently seeking re-election.
Allen has so far raised nearly $4,000 this election cycle. Allen's largest single contributions came from the Hillsboro Professional Fire Fighters PAC, which donated $1,000 to his campaign. He has also received $500 from Karen Packer, a former vice chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Oregon, who lives in rural Hillsboro. Friends for Malinowski, the campaign arm of Washington County Commissioner Greg Malinowski, donated $250 to Allen. Malinowksi lost a re-election bid in May to Pam Treece.
As for Allen's opponents in the race for Ward 2, neither John Shepherd nor William Joseph Fields have filed campaign committees with the state. The committees are required if they have collected at least $750 in campaign contributions.
Candidate Olivia Alcaire, who is running unopposed for the council's Ward 3 position, has raised about $3,500. Most of Alcaire's donations are fewer than $100, but she was given $1,000 from the Hillsboro Professional Fire Fighters PAC, $200 from Hillsboro School Board member Martin Granum and another $250 from Friends for Malinowski.
By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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