This is not an official blog of the City. It is the work of Mark Kapel who is solely responsible for content.

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Friday, August 31, 2012

Getting Elected at What Dollar Cost?

Alice to the White Queen: So how much does it cost to get elected to office ?
A-dressing the White Queen.jpg

White Queen: My dear if you have to ask you can't afford it because it really depends on whether your frugal or smart, tacky or chic. It needn't cost a penny but often does and then many are required. And woe to he or she who is late. What matters most is what election we are talking about. Is it one to come or one ago or something in between  ?

Alice: Well I was just trying to get an idea...

White Queen: Of course you were and it is my duty to inform you that you have come to the right place.So let us begin....

The waiver
In Oakland County if you plan to raise or spend less than $1,000. The paper work and reporting are quite simple quite and minimal. Save your receipts to  prove (if asked) that you spent less than four figures. That is all. 

If you start with the waiver you may change your mind and spend more later but you will have to file more paper work and be subject to late fees. 

City of Bloomfield Hills City Commission Elections.
Running for office does not however require you to spend anything. According to Oakland County Elections records there is no indication that Commissioner Michael Zambricki while serving on City Commission, 1989 to present has ever spent a penny in a City Election. The same is true of Commissioner Pat Hardy. The two have never lost a City Commission election.
Commissioner Michael McCready who recently won the Republican nomination for State Representative in the 40th District guessed that he never spent more than $600 in a City Commission election.

To give the reader  an idea of current costs, a direct mail letter in envelop to the 3600 registered voters in the city costs around $1300. A small sized post card might be as inexpensive as $800 and leave little room if you were trying to stay within the waiver limits.

In 2012 the five candidates seeking a position on City Commission spent in excess of  $15,000.  If that were five candidates spending $3000 each you might say things were getting a little out of whack. Actually it is stranger than that.
Two candidates stayed with the waiver limit. One of those who finished last spent around $800 and drew compliments from many for not spending "anything" at all. The other waiver candidate finished a respectable third. The fourth place finisher spend around $1500. The top two finishers broke the bank. The top vote getter spent $5000 which included a $500 death penalty late fee from the county.Much of the winner's money was spent on mailings and paid by the candidate The second place finisher sought donations  got a few, spent $7000 his own money, and listed "design services" as major expenditure,

A candidate is free to spend an unlimited amount of one's own money. Unlimited donations from a spouse are also acceptable. They have to be recorded . Other donations are limited and amounts over $100 require additional information from the donor.

Bloomfield Hills School Board Elections 
Every community is different with different standards and mores. Fund raising for one's own candidacy which is a little tacky  in the City of Bloomfield Hills is a fact of life in the huge multi community Bloomfield Hills school district.
 Inquiring minds would be wise to pay attention to the 2010 campaign finance report of Board Member Mark Bank who was the top vote getter  with more than 10,0000 votes and spent around  $5000.

This year the School Board will have two elections on the November ballot. In the first candidates Howard Baron,  Ingrid Day, and W.F. Moigis are seeking a six year term. Residents will vote for no more than two of the above.

In the other election candidates Joan Berndt, Jenny Greenwell, and Robert Herner seek a two year term. Voters may vote for only one of the above.

Berndt, Greenwell, and Moigis has filed for the waiver. Baron  and Herner have not filed for the waiver and are expected to run campaigns with expenditures in excess of $1000. Ingrid Day has yet to file or it has not as yet appeared on the Oakland County Elections web site. It is expected, based on her campaign of 2007 that she will run a campaign similar to that of Baron and Herner.

In the City of Bloomfield Hills  a City of 3600 registered voters some candidates have won spending nothing.
Population and geographic size make the School District different but will money make a difference ?  

Mr. Moigis is a newcomer in seeking election and we have heard that he is a man of ideas. It will be interesting to hear what they are are. The other five candidates are well known.
Three are incumbent school board members and the other two are long time participants in school related issues. 

In the first race, it is expected that regardless of dollars spent, name recognition, and incumbency will trump a maiden voyage onto the high seas of local politics.

In the second race Berndt, Greenwell, and Herner are well known by the community whic is divided in who they like, like more, or don't like. Berndt and Herner are school board members. Greenwell is private citizen school board gadfly emeritus. The thought of losing two School Board members and gaining Greenwell has made many school board supporters nervous. It will be interesting to see how the money goes, which is a shame because this race and the three candidates look like the marquee matchup. Voters will find their thoughts and ideas more interesting than siren call of names on yard signs or tee shirts.
State representative 40th District
In the recent primary election four Republican candidates
covering roughly the same ground as the school board candidates (with addition of all West Bloomfield east of Farmington Road, and The City of Birmingham) spent over $150,000.  They spent their money on  the same things the candidates in smaller elections paid for with one big exception. Money paid to consultants  ranged from $47 to $70 thousand dollars in two of the four state rep campaigns. Other than that it was all handouts, mailing, yard signs, tee shirts, robocalls and the usual. There were no network television buys. Just cable  and all candidates made use of the free medium of You Tube. Because of the small geographic area radio was not used. Newspaper advertising was used on an larger level beyond that of the smaller elections.

Downtown Birmingham Bloomfield Magazine   in an article entitled Win or Lose, the cost to run for political office  in the current issue, lists expenses in 40th district campaign as $99,982 for David Potts, $47,704 for Michael McCready the eventual winner, $37,144 for David Wolkinson, and $20,855 for Robert Lawrence. As in many City and school board elections the candidates money was their own. The math provided Downtown Publications is most helpful because it gets tricky with candidates loaning their campaign money and then taking it back. The article also includes a detailed financial break down the August 7th Primary county races, and court races.

For continued detailed financial updates on county elections from results to finances go to

Bottom line ? What it costs to get elected is up to the candidate. City, Multi City, County, the bigger the electorate the more the cost. Keeping that in mind the amount of money spend is not often the determining factor in the outcome.

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