The November general election is three months away, but fundraising and campaign spending are picking up in San Diego’s City Council races.
Why this matters
Many different sources of money can back a politician’s run for office. By knowing where that money is coming from, voters can learn about the priorities and connections of candidates on the ballot.
Of the eight candidates running to fill four council seats, three are incumbents, three are challengers and two are running for the open seat vacated by termed-out Councilman David Alvarez.
The biggest spending will likely center on the District 2 race, where Democrats hope to unseat Republican Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, which would give them a 6-3 veto-proof majority on the City Council. In the June primary, Zapf received just under 43 percent of the vote, so Democrats see a chance to beat her if they spend heavily on candidate Jen Campbell.
All the council candidates filed financial reports last week that cover the final weeks leading up to the primary, as well as the 3½ weeks after the June 5 election. Here are some takeaways from those filings.
District 2: Lorie Zapf and Jen Campbell
San Diego’s District 2 includes Point Loma, Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and Bay Park. Zapf has represented the area for eight years but can run for re-election again because of redistricting.
She’s challenged by Campbell, a family medicine physician.
From May 20 to the end of June, Zapf raised almost $31,000 and has raised more than $417,000 total for this election. She’s spent more than $192,000 but still had more than $245,000 in the bank as of June 30.
That cash dwarfs Campbell’s more than $35,000 in the bank as of June 30. Campbell raised more than $54,000 this filing period and has raised almost $176,000 total.
In the latest filings, Campbell also loaned herself $20,000, on top of another $10,000 loan she gave her campaign in September. The San Diego County Democratic Party gave her $1,000. Some prominent locals also gave to her campaign, including San Diego Unified School Board member Kevin Beiser ($550); environmental activist Nicole Capretz ($100); and state Assemblyman Todd Gloria ($100 for the general, $250 for the primary).
The city limit for individual donors is $550 for each election — the primary and the general.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party spent more than $7,500 on opposition research from May 20 to July 21 supporting Lorie Zapf. Before that, the party spent almost $7,900 to support Zapf by helping produce door hangers and voting guides.
Prominent locals also have given to her campaign. Among them are former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, now the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce’s CEO, who contributed $550, and Sempra executive Frank Urtasun, a top official at the utility’s lobbying arm Sempra Services, who gave $250.
District 4: Myrtle Cole and Monica Montgomery
San Diego’s District 4 includes Oak Park, Encanto and Paradise Hills. Council President Myrtle Cole has held the seat since 2013, when she won a special election.
One of the surprises of the June primary was that Cole finished six votes behind challenger Monica Montgomery. Montgomery worked for Cole before resigning on July 28, 2016, the same day Cole made comments that many in the community heard as justifying police brutality against black people. Both women are Democrats.
From May 20 to the end of June, Cole raised more than $11,000 and has raised more than $137,000 total this election. She’s spent almost $119,000 and had almost $33,000 in the bank as of June 30.
The county Democratic Party has spent more than $40,000 supporting Cole as of July 21. Most recently, it spent $108 on a robocall supporting Cole in late June.
Melinda Vasquez, a vice chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party, has told KPBS she was not sure the party would spend on the race, saying the party had more pressing concerns. “We have two Democrats running against each other, so it’s not considered strategically critical, because we’re going to have a Democrat regardless,” Vasquez said.
Assemblyman Gloria, a former San Diego councilman, recently gave Cole $100, plus $100 in the primary. Developer Tom Sudberry, one of the backers of SDSU West, gave Cole $550 in the general, plus $550 in the primary.
Montgomery raised more than $12,000 in this filing period and has raised almost $52,000 total. She’s spent more than $43,000 and had more than $13,000 in the bank as of June 30.
So far, Montgomery has not been getting financial support from the local Democratic or Republican parties. Failed district attorney candidate Genevieve Jones-Wright gave her $250 in the general, plus $275 in the primary, and failed sheriff’s candidate Dave Myers gave her $100 in the general, plus $100 in the primary.
Both candidates spent on print ads in the Filipino Press out of National City: Cole $1,500 and Montgomery $600.
District 6: Chris Cate and Tommy Hough
San Diego’s District 6 includes Clairemont, Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa and Sorrento Valley. Republican Councilman Chris Cate was first elected to the seat in 2014 and is running for re-election.
Cate is challenged by Democrat Tommy Hough, a former on-air host at San Diego radio stations.
In the latest filing, Cate raised almost $12,000 and has raised more than $415,000 this election. He’s spent more than $294,000 and had almost $163,000 cash in the bank as of June 30.
The San Diego County Republican Party has spent around $28,000 supporting his campaign, mostly through mailers.
Hough raised more than $11,000 in the latest filing, and has raised more than $34,000 total this election. He’s spent more than $42,000 and had more than $7,000 in the bank as of June 30.
The county Democratic Party has spent around $150 supporting Hough, but the most recent spending was back on April 23. In addition, prominent locals gave to his campaign including Gloria ($100); Beiser ($550 in the general and $50 in the primary); and Councilwoman Barbara Bry ($250).
District 8: Antonio Martinez and Vivian Moreno
San Diego’s District 8 includes Barrio Logan, Sherman Heights and San Ysidro. It’s the only open council race this year.
Running to replace termed-out Councilman Alvarez are San Ysidro School Board member Antonio Martinez, who narrowly edged out Christian Ramirez by three votes to make it to the general, and Alvarez staffer Vivian Moreno. Both are Democrats.
In the latest filing, Martinez raised a little more than $7,000 and has raised almost $91,000 total. He’s spent more than $88,000 and had around $5,600 in the bank as of June 30.
Martinez loaned himself $1,000 on March 1, 2017. He hasn’t paid it back yet.
Moreno raised more than $35,000 in the latest filing and has raised more than $166,000 total. She’s spent more than $135,000 and had more than $34,000 in the bank as of June 30.
The county Democratic Party has not financially supported either candidate. Political strategists Chris and Jennifer Wahl gave both candidates $550 in the general and $550 in the primary.
NOTE: inewsource data reporter Jill Castellano contributed to this report. inewsource is an independent nonprofit partner of KPBS.
We’ll let you know when big things happen.