|Is Gary Davis' policy shift on the city's SOI application meant to appease defecting voters?|
When President Obama won in 2008 much was made of the number of small donations he received from "regular" people. While the money undoubtedly helped, no campaign striving for big money be it for the Presidency or Mayor of Elk Grove can make it alone on small donors.
Small donors might be the face put forward by candidates, but the backbone and heart are big donors.
For President Obama the fact he received millions in small donations not only helped build up his war chest, it had other more oblique benefits. For one it provided a narrative that he is "of the people."
More importantly, if a Presidential candidate can show they have hundreds of thousands of small donors, it helps masks and deflect criticism about the influence of big donors. While running for the Presidency and the Mayor of Elk Grove are vastly different, a few campaign principles are constants.
In the last several days mayoral candidates and Elk Grove City Council Members Sophia Scherman and Gary Davis have sent Email blasts seeking small donations. So what is at play here?
For Scherman the solicitations might be nothing more than a genuine need to seek funds. Entering the race late, Scherman, never a prolific fundraiser compared to her counterparts on the city council, may really need every dollar from every possible donor.
After her unsuccessful Assembly run and late entry, Republican endorsements have gone to Jerry Braxmeyer. With those endorsements the money that might have flowed to Scherman might be going to Braxmeyer.
For Davis, there are a couple different things at play.
First, does Davis really need a couple hundred donations of $5 each? Considering Davis started the third quarter with $104,367 in his mayoral account, will another $2,000 from small donors be as time and administratively efficient when a candidates can easily get $2,500 donations from developers like Gil Moore or unions like Pipefitters Local 447 over some wine and hors d'oeuvres?
What is more likely in play here is good old-fashion spin. When Form 460's are filed later this week, Davis, or any other candidate, can say "over 50 percent of my donors were private citizens who made donations of less than $50" or something to that effect.
While such statements might be factually correct, they act as a masking agent for the fact that say, 75 percent of the money came from 10 percent of donors, or whatever the number turns out to be. The fact is major donors have been the backbone and heart of Davis' campaign financing mechanism since winning his council seat in 2006.
For Davis there is one other thing thing at play. In his Email blast Davis has stressed the ever popular grassroots theme.
Could this be a reaction to the entry of Lynn Wheat into the race? Wheat, who is not accepting donations, is by all appearances running a scrappy low-budget grassroots campaign.
In a six way race anything can happen and while Wheat is unlikely to siphon significant numbers of votes from Braxmeyer or Scherman supporters, her most likely pool of voters will come from Davis' base and thus providing Braxmeyer or Scherman an opening. If Wheat wasn't in the race, those voters who are concerned about environmental issues and more specifically, as a recent poll revealed, the city's unpopular sphere of influence (SOI) application that seeks to annex 8,000 acres, would probably default to Davis.
Indeed, Davis told the Sacramento Bee's editorial board while securing their endorsement that he is in talks with SACOG to scale back the SOI. Had Wheat, who has made dropping the SOI one of her campaign's cornerstones, not entered the race would Davis be willing to alienate, at least until after the election, his base of developer and union benefactors?
For Davis, scaling back the SOI could appease some potential defecting voters and of course at least three votes would be needed to either drop or scale back the SOI. Given the current council, dropping or even scaling back the SOI is unlikely so for Davis, there would be no danger of that happening and he would be able to reassure his developer and union donors with a wink and nod.
Only time will tell if Davis' new found support of scaling back the SOI is genuine or just his reaction to the threat Wheat's candidacy presents to his voter base. As for how the number of small donors that either Davis or Scherman receive will be spun by their campaigns, we will have a better idea later this week.