January 31st, 2011 marked the end of the first campaign filing period for candidates running for the vacant seat on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. Four candidates – at least four real candidates – are vying for the position and the money test is the first indicator of viability for those still on the fence as to whom to support. The spread of campaign cash garnered by each candidate as reported in the Mercury News is somewhat misleading so a bit of interpretation may be in order.
Leading in the money race is San Mateo Union High School District Trustee Dave Pine of Burlingame who raised more than $150,000. Pine was taken to task by the Merc for an earlier public pronouncement that he had raised those funds from 170 donors. As it turns out, Pine did raise $50,000 from 170 donors but raised the other $100,000 by loaning his own campaign the bulk of the cash. Pine was also the early bird in the game having opened his campaign account several months ago. Pine has also spent a whopping $38,000 already – far more than any of his opponents – leaving him with cash on hand of about $112,000.
Coming in second was later entrant in that of Burlingame Mayor Terry Nagel who reported raising almost $110,000 since November. Nagel, however, also loaned her campaign $75,000 as well as a direct $5,000 contribution – meaning Nagel raised approximately $29,000 from donors other than herself. Almost all of Nagel’s donations came from Burlingame residents or businesses – a testament to her popularity in her community but by no means an indication of countywide support.
Coming in behind Nagel but with more dollars from actual donors is Millbrae Councilmember Gina Papan. Papan raised $44,671 from 116 donors, the bulk of which came from labor unions of all stripes.
Rounding out the bottom of the field is San Mateo County Community College Trustee Richard Holober who raised $17,653 to which he added a loan of $900.
Beyond the spin each campaign will likely attempt a couple of things are clear. Firstly Dave Pine and Terry Nagel can finance their campaigns with their own money but no candidate has significantly broken out of the pack without the self-financing component. It is also clear that Holober is clearly in the weakest position having raised perhaps a third or less than that of his opponents. It remains to be seen if Holober has the resources to match his opponent’s largesse in financing their own campaigns. Holober’s weak showing may impact his aspirations sooner rather than later.
In measuring external donations alone, Papan is actually keeping pace with Pine in a close second place. The source of those donations is also interesting as it appears the bulk of union support has gravitated toward Papan, an important component of running a countywide campaign as in addition to campaign cash such support can also translate into boots on the ground.
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