Evan Smith: Money didn’t buy local elections

Thursday, December 3, 2009

By Evan Smith
ShorelineAreaNews Politics Writer

We’re told that money doesn’t buy happiness, and now we know that, in this year’s election, it didn’t buy seats on our city councils and school board.

In fact, six out of eight candidates who have reported spending more money than their opponents lost their elections.

I’ve been asking candidates about whether money was a factor in their winning or losing. One newly elected official, Lake Forest Park Councilman-elect John Wright, told me that he had won despite his opponent’s advantage in fundraising and campaign spending.

In Shoreline, three of the four candidates who outspent their opponents lost their elections.

Shoreline City Council incumbent Cindy Ryu reported raising and spending $38,253, yet she lost narrowly to challenger Shari Tracey, who reported raising $26,400 and spending $24,365. Even with $7,721 spent by an independent group opposing Ryu, Tracey was at a financial disadvantage but won anyway.

Candidate Patty Hale reported raising $21,452 and spending $18,313 compared to the $16,263 raised and spent by Will Hall, who defeated her in the general election.

Write-in candidate Wendy DiPeso reported raising $21,072 and spending $16,802, compared to Councilman Keith McGlashan’s $16,737 raised and $7,186 spent, yet McGlashan won 79 percent of the vote.

The only Shoreline Council victory by a candidate with more money than his opponent came in the contest that drew the least money. In that race, Christopher Roberts, who reported raising $13,162 and spending $9,230 won a resounding victory over incumbent Councilman Ron Hansen, who reported raising $6,454 and spending $5,771.

In Lake Forest Park, the relationship between results and fundraising was mixed.

Wright won despite raising $2,237 and spending $2,037, compared to the reported $6,209 raised and $5,664 spent by opponent Jean Thomas.

Councilman-elect Bob Lee reported raising and spending more than his opponent, Tom French.

Councilwoman Sandy Koppenol, who defeated Councilman Alan Kiest, reported raising more money than Kiest but spending less.

The only School Board candidate who reported significant fundraising and spending was Corey Murata who lost to incumbent Board Member Debi Ehrlichman by a 72 percent to 28 percent margin.

Thomas and Murata, who both lost despite a financial advantage, had the backing of the 32nd District Democratic Committee. Murata also had the backing of the 32nd District Republicans.

Candidates for the Shoreline City Council raised a total of $182,072. That's $5.41 for every registered voter, $10.04 for every ballot cast this year and $11.32 for every vote cast for Council positions.

The candidates and one independent opposition group reported spending $167,000. That’s $4.96 for every registered voter, $9.21 for every ballot cast and $10.39 for every vote cast for Council positions.

Lake Forest Park City Council candidates reported raising $23,086. That’s $2.41 for every registered voter, $4.07 for ballot submitted and $4.71 for every vote for City Council. Candidates reported spending $18,183. That’s $1.95 for every registered voter, $3.31 for every ballot submitted and $3.71 for every vote marked for City Council.

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