Money, Political Machines, Not Planning Commission Easiest Route to Seat on Elk Grove City Council

November 9, 2016 |  

Of the several takeaways from this year's local elections, one is that if you want to get a seat on the Elk Grove City Council, don't harbor any illusion that being a Planning Commissioner alone will get you there.

As yesterday's Elk Grove Mayoral results demonstrated, Elk Grove Planning Commissioner Kevin Spease was the third seated Planning Commissioner to fail in their bids for a position on the Elk Grove City Council. 

Like Spease, the two other Planning Commissioners to run for a City Council seat, George Murphey and Nancy Chaires Espinoza, were well-qualified, thoughtful Commissioners. Murphey ran against incumbent Pat Hume in 2010, and Chaires Espinoza ran for an open seat against three candidates including Steve Ly in 2014.

In Murphey's run, he faced a much better-funded candidate in Hume, who had the financial support of the development community. Even though Murphey had some funding, it was much smaller than Hume's, and he was not part of any machine that firmly has a grip on Elk Grove's political scene.

While Chaires Espinoza had superior qualifications to her primary opponent, Ly, she was not able to match his fundraising. Part of the reason was that Ly was recruited by Mayor Gary Davis to run in some inexplicable vendetta against Chaires Espinoza, who he had previously tried to get appointed to the city council, and he was able to round-up significant funding for his protégé.

Ly won, and with Davis' imminent departure as Mayor, control of Davis' well-oiled machine seemingly has been passed.

Although Spease was the first candidate to declare earlier this year, raise funds, and put some of his money into the game, it just wasn't enough. Not only did Davis' machine help his protégé raise over $100,000, but an independent expenditure committee also threw in another $100,000 for good measure. Maybe that is who funded Ly's aircraft and banner flying all over Elk Grove yesterday.

Now politicians are loath to admit money buys votes, but there is no mistake that typically the candidate in Elk Grove City Council races who raises the most money is the winner. Ideas don't win Elk Grove elections - money does.

While three Planning Commissioners failed in their bids, there is one who succeeded. It was Pat Hume who in 2006 was the first Planning Commissioner to win a seat on the City Council. 

Of course Hume, who between his campaign war chest and several independent expenditure committees, had close to a quarter of million dollars spent on his behalf to beat a poorly funded incumbent Rick Soares. 
For aspiring Elk Grove City Council Members, with three out of four Planning Commissioners failing to win in their elections, the best strategy is to line yourself up with a machine. If the opportunity to serve on the Planning Commission presents itself and you have higher ambitions, make sure you are part of the machine.  

The better option is to line yourself up with the machine and get yourself an appointment to the City Council. Rumor has it that a seat on the City Council is about to be open for appointment. 


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