I am a firm believer in election and campaign finance reform, but thanks to recent Supreme Court decisions, as well as the fact that the people already in office are the ones that make the rules, I don’t see much reform happening anytime soon in that space.
One thing voters often do not realize about local elections is that they are the ones that impact our lives the most. The water boards, trash commissioners; the judges and the county supervisors – these are the people that make the real decisions on our behalf. From energy price tiers, to who picks up our trash, housing and roads and everything in between – the people elected to make those decisions impact us, and so it seems logical to focus in on those races.
In reality, they are often the bubbles on ballots most often ignored.
It can be hard to climb through the weeds and figure things out. In Ventura County, where I live, most local elections are nonpartisan in name only, while candidates often come from a partisan leaning, a local political group, or with significant backing of a particular political ideology. Cronyism is a plague in this town, as is hyper-local special interest and small business.
Moreover, candidates give the appearance that they are paying for their own campaigns by giving themselves loans, when this could not be further from the truth. Every time a candidate gives themselves a loan, they are doing so to conceal who has really funded their campaign – either through a cash contribution meant to be kept anonymous, or by a contribution that will be given once the filing period has closed, and the public has only limited access to the information.
In my own race for city council in 2020, as an example, my opponent was largely funded by realtors, property managers, and himself. Of course with affordable housing, and homelessness now becoming existential issues in our community, these groups have now purchased their seat at the policy-making table via hefty campaign contributions. Who you vote for is as much who paid for the campaign as it is the politicians, themselves.
In the vast majority of elections, the person who raises the most wins. This is, in the simplest term: #facts. There isn’t a lot we can do about that, in the end, but by knowing more about who is funding campaigns to begin with, we as voters are then empowered to vote on the basis of the nuts and bolts of the campaign, rather than the shell that is carefully fashioned around it.
Because in the end, who owns the community are those that our elected officials are ultimately indebted to for funding their campaign.
For this primary election, in my community, I’ve created this “guide” that neither recommends a candidate, nor outlines a candidate’s claims; but simply highlights key donors of interest in their most recent campaign finance disclosures. I have added a few details that may be of interest that many average voters may be unaware of. I will admit, in full disclosure, that of the local races, I am most clearly in support of Bill Ayub for sheriff (I have a sign in my lawn), and YES on A and B (I have kids who don’t want environmentally-induced illnesses). But on many others, it was not until I read these campaign finance disclosures myself, that I made my decision (and on a couple, I changed my mind based on who donated to them).
CLICK EACH OF THE BOX IMAGES BELOW to open the particular race you would like more information about, and if you wish to search the disclosures more exhaustively yourself, please click HERE and follow the instructions on the county’s campaign finance disclosure search page (if you have a problem using the search function, please email me here and I can help you out).
And while my content is always free, writing is still a job for me so if you feel so inclined, please visit my Pay What It’s Worth PAGE HERE, and consider signing up to get my emails straight to your inbox, below. Happy voting!