The recent article in the Contra Cost Times by Lisa Vorderbrueggen (“Benicia Election shows money’s limitations”, 11/18/07) may have caused a little confusion about the cost of our election, so I’d like to make a few clarifications. The main source of confusion is that the article used contribution figures rather than expenditure figures to calculate our election costs. Thus the article stated that “Combined, the candidates and the various independent expenditure groups collected [in contributions] a shocking $331,000 for the mayor and City Council races…”.
This figure of $331,000 overstates the actual cost of our election because one of the PACs (United Workers for Local Government) collected $134,000 in contributions, but only spent $31,600 of that on Benicia’s election (in support of Whitney, Strawbridge, and Ioakimedes). The same overstated $134,000 contribution figure was used in the calculation of the cost per vote for various candidates.
I think it is more useful and accurate to use expenditure figures to analyze our election costs. If we look at actual expenditures reported so far (through reporting period ending 11/6/07), we see combined total expenditures by all candidates and PACs of $240,600. Keep in mind however, that this figure may rise somewhat as future financial reports are submitted (the next reports are due in January 2008, reflecting data through 12/31/07).
Again, if we use actual expenditures reported so far (rather than contributions), we can more accurately calculate the cost per vote for each candidate. In the mayoral race, when the $34,300 expenditure of Mayor-elect Elizabeth Patterson ( 96% of that from In-Town sources) is divided by her 3,978 votes, it results in a cost per vote of $8.60. Whereas Bill Whitney and the three PACs that spent money in support of him have reported combined total expenditures so far of $84,000 (only 16% of that from In-Town sources). When that combined total is divided by his 3,801 votes, it results in a cost per vote of $22.
In the three-way council race, the $19,780 expenditure of Tom Campbell (91% from In-Town sources), divided by his 4,511 votes, results in a cost per vote of $4.40. The expenditures reported by Mike Ioakimedes -- combined with one third of the $31,600 which was spent by United Workers for Local Government in three-way support of him, Strawbridge, and Whitney -- came to a combined total of $25,300 (38% from In-Town sources). When that combined total is divided by his 4,423 votes, it results in a cost per vote of $5.70. In contrast, when the $77,200 combined expenditures reported by Scott Strawbridge and the UWLG in support of him is divided by his 3,628 votes, the result is a cost per vote of $21. (Only 7% of that combined total came from In-Town sources.)
So in answer to the original question, how much does a vote cost in Benicia? It depends on the source of the money. Money that was collected from Benicia residents was highly valuable in vote conversion; but money that was collected from sources outside of Benicia wasn’t worth as much in vote conversion (perhaps due to voter distrust of outside special interests and deceptive claims), and so it took a lot more of it to turn it into a vote.