Dollars don’t sway local races

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Finance: One local candidate commits to money-free campaign

By Arin McKenna

The Second General Campaign Finance Report released this week shows Kristin Henderson-D leading the race for campaign contributions, with $5,525 in her coffers. Latecomer Michael Redondo-D is bringing up the rear with $0.

Redondo, who replaced Kenneth Johnson on the Democratic ballot Aug. 29, said that his zero balance is one of his campaign platforms.

“One of the big issues is, I think there’s already too much money in politics. And I think at this local level it’s possible to actually win an election without having to rely on contributions — particularly here in Los Alamos where people really take the responsibility of being an educated voter,” Redondo said.

“That’s one of the things I wanted to show, that it can be done. That was one of the big reasons I decided to eschew donations."

Redondo’s strategy for running a campaign without money is simple: meet as many people as he can in person and talk to them about his platform. He also encourages those who agree with him to tell others about his campaign, or even set up a meeting so others can learn more about him.

Rather than paying for a website, Redondo is posting his political positions on a Facebook page, Michael Redondo for County Council.

Redondo has also accepted in-kind donations (totaling $32) of used signs destined for the trash that he can recycle to make into campaign signs.

Redondo said he has been turning donations away “left and right” and will continue to do so.

“I may not be able to reach as many people as I might have if I had money. But I think the sorts of things that I would be able to do with the money aren’t as effective as actually getting out there and talking to people,” Redondo said. “It’s just kind of the name recognition thing that you really get from the ads and the big, flashy signs, but those don’t really tell the people who you are and what you plan on doing if elected.”

Another notable element of the campaign finance reports was a significant decrease in out-of-county, out-of-state donations.

Henderson was the only candidate with any contributions from outside Los Alamos, with a $500 contribution from a donor in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Earlier reports showed $950 in out-of-state donations.

Henderson raised a total of $1,575 in the last two months and has spent a total of $2,485.22 so far in the campaign.
Although on paper Henderson appears to be out-raising other candidates, $1,500 of her funds are from a loan she made to her own campaign.

Councilor Vincent Chiravalle-R, who is running for re-election, has raised a total of $4,405 so far, with $500 of that a contribution to his own campaign.

Chiravalle’s out-of-state donations had the biggest drop. He raised $470 in the past two months, all of that from local donors. Previous contributions from out-of-county totaled $1,550, with $1,300 of that coming from an uncle in New Jersey. Chiravalle has spent $2,729.33 on his campaign thus far.

Marc Clay-R raised $550 in local donations this reporting period and has spent $1,868.51 to date. His total contributions are $2,455.10. Clay’s contributions were entirely local this time. Earlier reports showed $480 raised from donors outside the county.

Steven Girrens-R has donations of $1,046.18 and spent the same amount. Girrens contributed a significant amount of that himself, with a $300 donation to his own campaign, as well as loans to the campaign, including $97.40 this reporting period. Girrens also received $120 of in-kind donations from three different donors.

All of Girrens’ campaign money has been local. He raised $400 this reporting period.
Girrens replaced Roger Waterman on the Republican ticket early in August.

Peter Sheehey-D has raised a total of $3,530 and spent $1,478.17 on the campaign. Sheehey has  had only one contribution from out-of-state during his campaign, and that was from a retired lab employee. He has spent $245.23 to date.

Sheehey is not going to the lengths that Redondo is of refusing money, but he has committed to a local, grassroots fundraising effort, and appears to be doing well with that strategy. He raised $815 in the last two months, all from donations ranging from $25 to $100 dollars from 13 different donors.

Sheehey did raise funds from family and friends outside the state when he ran for a State House seat previously.

“But this time it’s a local, county campaign,” Sheehey said. “I have plenty of friends and supporters here, so I felt its best as a grassroots campaign. People know me here and know which of their concerns match up with my own, so I just felt it was adequate to focus right here in Los Alamos County.”

Sheehey is using strategies he learned at during candidate training at Camp Wellstone. He prepared a budget of what he believed he would need to spend, then drew up a list of possible donors and began contacting them. He admitted that asking people for support was difficult.

“But people in this town are understanding and generous, and I’m not at all bothered if they’re not in a position to help,” Sheehey said.

“I certainly ask for a donation if they’ve got it, but there are many other ways people can help, whether that means putting a sign up in their yard, and I’ve had some very good friends who have even gone out and knocked on doors with me. I’m grateful for all of it, but I understand people have lives and limitations that keep them from doing any given thing.”

The third general report comes out just before elections. Follow the Los Alamos Monitor for an update at that time.

And Tuesday, the Los Alamos Monitor will take a look at the campaign finances of House District 43 candidates Jim Hall-R and Stephanie Garcia Richard-D.