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Votes

Running for Office Is Costly

Financial disclosure forms reveal how much was spent in campaign.

Financial disclosure forms filed by candidates show that campaigns for City Council and mayor are getting more and more expensive.

All candidates were required to file these financial disclosure forms by April 28 or “if they’re filed late, there’s a penalty,” said Eric Spicer, an elections official in Alexandria.

“The electoral board decides the amount of the fine within a range. One candidate filed a day late in the last local election and the Board fined him $10. If there is a second offense, the fine is greater, up to $500. If a candidate files and there is something wrong with the form, we send him/her a notice and give them 10 days to correct the error before we take any other type of action.”

This year’s forms ranged in length from nine pages for mayoral candidate Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet, to more than 40 pages for his two opponents. The length is reflective of the amounts raised, as well.

Vice Mayor Bill Cleveland, the Republican candidate, raised $115,000. Councilman William D. Euille, a Democrat, raised more than $182,000, and Van Fleet raised $27,046.

According to the forms, Van Fleet contributed $5,000 of his own money, and Cleveland and Euille transferred funds from previous campaign accounts. Euille started with about $25,000 and Cleveland with around $10,000. Cleveland received some Political Action Committee funds from U.S. Rep. Tom Davis’ PAC and from the Black Americans’ PAC.

Euille received funds from two labor unions. Both Euille and Van Fleet obtained contributions, both in-kind and in money, from their own companies.

PREDICTABLY, BOTH Cleveland and Euille received party support, locally and nationally. Euille and Cleveland received business support, with Euille raising more funds from that sector than did Cleveland.

“Fund-raising has gone well,” Van Fleet said in an earlier interview. “I spent some of my own money the last time and probably will again, although I am pleased with how well things have gone.”

All three mayoral candidates spent most of their money. Cleveland spent $101,000, Euille spent $172,000, and Van Fleet spent $26,959. Euille was the only mayoral candidate who paid for polling.

On the Council side, Independent candidate Pat Troy was the most successful fund-raiser, reporting just over $100,000 in contributions. He has spent $96,000 to date.

“We talked about this when I decided to run, and I knew that it was going to cost between $50,000 and $75,000,” Troy said. “We have been very fortunate to get a lot of support from the whole community.”

AT THE OTHER END of the spectrum was Republican candidate Matthew Natale, who raised just over $5,000 and who has spent $3,000. “I am running a real grass-roots campaign,” he said in an earlier interview. “I believe in going door-to-door, getting to know people. That’s the best way to get to know the city and for people to get to know me.”

The three incumbents, Councilwoman Claire Eberwein, Councilwoman Redella S. “Del” Pepper and Councilwoman Joyce Woodson, all did well. Eberwein raised $46,000, Pepper raised $46,000, and Woodson raised $51,000. Eberwein has spent $20,000, Pepper $35,000, and Woodson has spent $32,000.

Running previously has helped some more than others. Paul Smedberg, who ran unsuccessfully in 2000, raised $60,000, while Judy McVay raised $27,000 and Andrew Macdonald raised $23,000.

“I am really pleased at the way in which the community has responded to my campaign,” Smedberg said. “We had over 400 contributors, and about 90 percent of those people contributed $100 or less. Also, more than 90 percent of the people who contributed to my campaign are from Alexandria. It really does illustrate just how important those small contributions can be.”

SCHOOL BOARD candidates, too, had to file disclosure forms. Incumbent Susan Johnson reported spending $290, while incumbent Mark Wilkoff spent $5,000. Most candidates spent less than $2,000 and raised less than $2,500.

Write-in candidate Ronnie Campbell also submitted financial disclosure forms. Her campaign is being financed through a contribution to herself and with a loan from incumbent School Board member Sally Ann Baynard.

All financial disclosure forms are on the electoral board’s web site at www.alexandriavoter.org.