Does spending a lot on a municipal election campaign translate into votes?
Maybe, judging from financial disclosure documents from the City of Nelson and Regional District of Central Kootenay in last November’s races.
The top-spending city council candidate topped the polls, while the two candidates who spent the least were the only ones not elected.
In the Nelson mayoral race, meanwhile, John Dooley spent by far the most en route to a landslide victory, while one of his two challengers did not provide financial statements and may be disqualified from running in the next election.
By legislation, candidates are required to disclose the amount they raise and spend on their campaigns within 120 days of the election.
Individual donations of $100 or more must also be listed.
Dooley raised $9,049 and spent $8,642 while Richard Rowberry, who finished more than 1,300 votes back, spent $132. Third-place finisher George Mercredi failed to file his disclosure by the deadline, and now has 30 days to file late papers, at a penalty of $500. If he doesn’t, he will be inelligible to run in 2014.
Dooley’s larger contributions included $1,000 from each of Nelson Ford, Stuart Ross of Pacific Insight, and Seain Conover of CoreLogic (formerly Tarasoft), and $500 each from Peter Ward Engineering, Marwest, Martech, and Yellowhead Road and Bridge.
Overall, he received 30 contributions of at least $100.
Dooley says he spent less in this campaign than previous ones, but it wasn’t for lack of donors.
“I had lots of people willing to donate, but I felt I had enough money to run the campaign I wanted,” he says. “There was no shortage of funds.”
Although there was little doubt he would be re-elected, Dooley still felt it was important to get his message out.
“It’s an important job. You have to take it seriously. My campaign wasn’t based on opposition to anybody else running. It was more about what I had to offer.”
Dooley says he’s not sure how strong the correlation is between money and votes. He believes being elected has as much or more to do with personal connections and being in touch with constituents than how much you spend.
But with one exception, every successful council candidate spent at least $1,800 — mostly on newspaper and radio ads as well as signage and pamphlets.
Donna Macdonald, who led the way with 1,744 votes, also spent the most: $2,910.
Second-place finisher Paula Kiss spent the third-most, $2,340. Bob Adams came in third and was the fourth-highest spender, at $1,999.
Deb Kozak was fourth on a shoestring budget of $373 and Robin Cherbo fifth, despite spending the second most, $2,503.
Candace Batycki, who snagged the final council spot, spent $1,825.
Incumbent Marg Stacey, a distant seventh, recorded her only expense as $250 on in-kind photocopying for her brochure, while last-place finisher Charles Jeanes did not spend any money.
In the Regional District of Central Kootenay, one of the most hotly contested races also produced some of the highest spending.
Area E (Rural Nelson), where Ramona Faust was re-elected over former director Josh Smienk, saw both candidates spend large sums: $4,150 by Faust and $4,652 by Smienk.
Those were far greater amounts than in most other area races, although Area B director and RDCK chair John Kettle raised $5,840 toward his successful re-election campaign. He ended up spending $4,634.
Several candidates entirely self-financed their campaigns, including Smienk, as well as re-elected directors Ron Mickel (Area F), Hans Cunningham (Area G), and Walter Popoff (Area H).
The Nelson-Creston Green Party contributed $100 each to at least four campaigns: Faust, Kiss, Batycki, and Andy Shadrack (Area D).
Batycki also received a $100 personal contribution from Nelson-Creston NDP MLA Michelle Mungall.
The Canadian Labour Congress backed the campaigns of council candidates Donna Macdonald and Robin Cherbo — although any financial contributions were small, as they did not show up on their forms.
Cherbo also counted the support of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.