The June primary election is adding up to one of the most expensive in local history. In San Luis Obispo County alone, new records have been set for campaign donations.
More than $1.5 million has been raised in local elections in just the first four month of 2018. That’s over $1 million more than was raised in the 2014 primary election, according to county campaign finance records.
The majority of that money is spent on advertising but the way candidates are reaching voters is changing and political analysts expect this primary will be one for local history books.
With the primary about two weeks away, political ads are flooding the airwaves. All that screen time costs big bucks.
Cal Poly political science professor and local political analyst Michael Latner says about 80 percent of campaign donations go toward paying for advertising.
Candidates aren’t just focused on TV advertising this election cycle.
“We have seen campaigns becoming increasingly creative with using social media to advertise to people who aren’t on voter lists, who aren’t your typical voter,” Latner said.
Most candidates in San Luis Obispo County races are on Instagram. Latner says campaigning on social media is a trend to get younger voters to the polls.
“My expectation is that we’re going to see a much higher turnout than we did in 2014,” Latner told KSBY.
Latner says the amount of money at stake and where it’s coming from says a lot about our political climate.
“There’s a lot of anti-incumbent money out there,” he said.
Campaign finance reports through the end of April 2018 show district attorney candidate Judge Mike Cummins has raised more than $164,000 dollars. That’s some $20,000 more than incumbent Dan Dow has in his reelection coffers.
Latner says smaller donations are making a big impact too.
“Many of the challengers are raising a lot of money in very small amounts and what that suggests is there is a lot of groundwork going on,” Latner said. “They’re raising money from people who want to see change.”
The race for third district supervisor actually has the most money in the fame.
The two sheriff candidates have raised more than $380,000 together.
The race for district attorney has more than $300,000 in play.
While Latner says more money doesn’t necessarily mean a candidate will win — “What money can buy you is name recognition,” he said calling that critically important for challengers in what is turning out to be one of the most contentious and expensive campaign cycles in San Luis Obispo County’s recent history.
What happens to all that money after the election?
Regardless of whether a candidate wins or loses, any leftover campaign money must either be given to charities, other candidates, a political party or be saved for a future run for office, as established by the Federal Election Commission.
However, Latner says the goal is never to have leftover campaign money because those funds could have been better used to win the race.