What you can buy with $8.10 in Elk Grove; Maybe more significant is the importance of 56¢

The importance of money in American politics, as George W. Bush would say, should not be misunderestimated. 

Politics operates on the principle - no money, no campaigns, but limited funding can still be consequential. EGN regularly examines financial disclosures for elected officials in Elk Grove and usually, the campaign with the most money, especially for an open seat, prevails. 

In the last two weeks, all Elk Grove city council members and recent candidates filed their reports for the calendar year ending December 31. While we will continue to monitor who gave elected officials and all candidates their money, this time, we took a look at how much money was spent.

Specifically, we were interested in how much money was spent in the 2020 Elk Grove mayoral race. Between the three candidates - Steve Ly, Brian Pastor, and Bobbie Singh-Allen, $688,974, most of it came from Ly and Singh-Allen, was spent on campaign-related activities in last year's election.

Running as the incumbent, Ly spent $371,785; Singh-Allen expenditures totaled $310,880, and Pastor had costs of $8,851.

The other way to look at this is how much did each candidate spend per vote. Singh-Allen received 38,341 votes; her cost per vote was $8.10. Ly, who lost to Singh-Allen, had higher expenses meaning each of his 29,301 votes cost him $12.68.

Third place finisher Pastor by far was the most cost-effective campaign, albeit it in a losing effort. Pastor received 15,784 votes, which cost him 56₵ per vote. 

One thing that has been a constant in each competitive Elk Grove mayoral race since 2012 [Gary Davis ran unopposed in 2014] is that the winners never received a majority of voters. In the first mayoral election in 2012, Davis received 49-percent, the highest ever, Ly received 44 and 41-percent in 2016 and 2018, respectively, and in 2020 Singh-Allen won with 45-percent.

The lack of majority is because Elk Grove, as a general law city, does not have primary elections. All candidates run during the general election, so it is not uncommon for a winning candidate with less than 50-percent of the vote. 

So Pastor, by spending a mere 56¢ per vote, influenced the outcome of the mayoral race. Had Singh-Allen and Ly faced-off in the general election, both had a chance to win a clear majority, although Singh-Allen would have needed only about 3,400 of Pastor's 15,784 votes to secure victory.

Still, the presence of multiple candidates means some representatives on the Elk Grove City Council secured their positions without a clear majority. Given someone with limited funding can sway an election raises the possibility of chicanery. 

If you are an incumbent, why not recruit a candidate who, based on their political affiliation or some demographic characteristic, can siphon votes from your challenger. Don't think it cannot at some point happen in Elk Grove - it's textbook dirty-politics.

We are not suggesting Pastor was recruited for nefarious reasons - he entered the race very early on, well before Singh-Allen's name surfaced as a candidate, and it is unlikely he was planted to help Ly. Pastor probably drew more voters from Ly than Singh-Allen.

Nonetheless, Pastor's 56¢ per vote expenditure influenced the outcome of Elk Grove's 2020 mayoral campaign. Until Elk Grove adopts a charter and has runoff elections - which will not eliminate skullduggery either - make no mistake Pastor's 56¢ expenditure will not go unnoticed by some political operative or candidate surrogate.  
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D.J. Blutarsky said...

EGN writes, "If you are an incumbent, why not recruit a candidate who, based on their political affiliation or some demographic characteristic, can siphon votes from your challenger. Don't think it cannot at some point happen in Elk Grove - it's textbook dirty-politics".

Oh, it's already happened before and will surely happen again. Think of the past elections, where these people pop up like a whack-a-mole game, never to be seen or heard from again after the election. They would never admit they were recruited to help throw an election, but the suspicion is there in my mind.

Besides the recent Mayor race, I also wonder about the more obscure name(s) who ran in the District 3 race and did virtually no campaigning to speak of?

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