TRAVERSE CITY — Five candidates for city commission raised a combined $27,500-plus in hopes of snaring one of three open seats that will pay them $4,335 annually.
Commission hopeful Gary Howe, relying chiefly on social media and Internet solicitations, raised the most — $8,502 — as of Oct. 20, including $1,000 of his own money. He spent a little over half that amount and held about $4,000 for a final push.
“I feel good,” said Howe, who exceeded his planned budget by $2,000. “We had 123 donors and many showed a lot of support from the get-go and that helped energize me.”
Jan Warren raised $6,100, including $2,000 of her own money. She was down to $9.95 in her campaign account on Oct. 20. Her strategy was to get her name out early and often so absentee voters would be familiar with her candidacy, she said.
Ross Richardson followed a similar strategy: he raised $6,055 and spent all but $612 by the Oct. 20 filing deadline. Richardson said that money already is gone and he expects to spend another several hundred dollars from his own pocket beyond the $1,600 he’s already contributed.
Most of the candidates who raised in excess of $1,000 expected to continue stuffing mailboxes and spending more in days leading up to Tuesday’s election.
Patrick McGuire raised $4,715, including $1,500 of his own money, and spent $4,063 by Oct. 20, while candidate Tim Werner raised $2,147, of which the majority, $1,501, came from his own pocket.
Of the mayoral candidates, the incumbent and challenger occupy the other end of the fundraising spectrum.
Incumbent Mayor Michael Estes and challenger Rick Buckhalter filed campaign finance waivers in which they pledged to spend less than $1,000. John Reid, who filed as a write-in candidate for mayor and whose name also will appear on the ballot as a candidate for city commission, also filed a waiver.
Two-term incumbent Jody Bergman also filed a waiver, but spent about $900.
“I still have signs left over from 2005,” Bergman said. “I’m spending some money, but $6,000 to $8,000? I just don’t think it’s justified.”
Howe used the Internet to raise cash and employed social media in his advertising campaign.
“I wanted to try and engage the non-traditional voter for the election,” Howe said. “And a lot of people we contacted asked about going online to donate because it’s so much easier.”
The other candidates relied on more traditional campaigns; they mailed fundraising letters and used money on brochures, mailings, and yard signs, finance reports show. Warren also bought newspaper advertising and most have a website and Facebook page.
Howe’s top supporters were John Shimel, a part-owner of Meridian Entertainment Group who gave $500, and Deb Lake, executive director of the Traverse City Film Festival, who provided a $500 movie sponsorship during the festival. Other supporters include: city Commissioner Mary Ann Moore; former Mayor Chris Bzdok; Hans Voss, executive director of the Michigan Land Use Institute, and Marsha Smith, executive director of Rotary Charities, who all contributed $50.
Howe also chipped in $1,000 of his own money.
Warren’s top donors at $200 each were Todd McMillen, Jay Knapp, and Traverse City firefighter Chad Reuckert, president of the city’s firefighters union. Other donors at $100 or less include: former city Commissioners Carol Hale, Linda Smyka, and Scott Hardy; K. Ross Childs, former Grand Traverse County administrator; Marsha Smith; Doug Luciani, president and CEO of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce, and Pete Strom, a former county commissioner.
Richardson’s top donors were Reuckert at $300, Shimel with $250, and Laura Herman with $200. He also received donations of less than $200 from several area Democrats, including county party Chairwoman Diana Ketola and former candidates for the state legislature Joseph Sloan and Joel Casler. City Commissioner Jim Carruthers gave $50.
McGuire’s top donors were George Galic and McGuire’s boss, David Howard, at $500 each. He also received $250 from Shimel. Other donors include city Commissioners Barbara Budros and Mike Gillman, Luciani, and county Commissioner Christine Maxbauer.
Werner’s top donor was former Travese City Light & Power board Chairman Mike Coco at $170.