I've been critical of how the City Council campaign for Mercer Island newcomer Maureen Judge is financed almost entirely by non-residents and special interest groups. Several people have complained that I haven't given a similar critical look at Mike Cero and his campaign, and one anonymous reader even tipped me off that Mike's newest contributors are also off-island. I've been too lazy till now to check the facts, but I guess it's better late than never:
|New indiv donors since the primary||50||8|
As you can see, the anonymous tipster was completely wrong. Not only does Mike get nearly all his money from Island residents, but he also has a far broader base of support -- about double the number of individual donors as Maureen. Presumably he can count on at least 200 votes if you assume that everyone who donated will also vote for him. Actually, that's not necessarily true: some people contributed to both campaigns! (interestingly, the "double-dippers" gave to Maureen early in the Spring, then switched to Mike within the past two months).
It's clear that Maureen, who filed for City Council less than 9 months after moving to the Island, is a long-term bet by the Democratic party to establish a "bench" of experienced political leaders who can move on to state or national offices. Darcy Burner, for example, lost the 2006 congressional election in part because many voters who were otherwise frustrated by Bush and Iraq simply couldn't bring themselves to vote for somebody with no civic experience. Too bad Darcy wasn't first elected to Mercer Island City Council.
So what about Mike? If the Democrats see this as an important partisan race, what do the Republicans think? and are they voting with their wallets the way that special interests have rallied behind Maureen? The short answer is no, not officially: neither of his off-island donors are reliable Republicans. Yes, most of his top Islander contributors do in fact donate regularly to Republicans, but at least two of the top ten contributed to Nobel Prize Winner Al Gore's past campaigns (I presume that means they're Democrats) and another shows up on the official list of people whose ballots were mistakenly not counted during the 2004 election (Gregoire's razor-thin election recount depends on it being a Democrat).
Since Maureen is so clearly backed by the Democrats as a long-term national bet, that explains why so few big-time Democratic donors have openly backed Mike. In looking over the donation records of Maureen's key supporters (the school board members, the former mayors, etc. who have endorsed her) -- virtually all of them are active in the Democratic Party. What could they possibly gain by openly supporting her opponent, especially when many of them announced their support for her before it was even clear who else would be running? By default, that means Mike is going to attract non-Democratic donors.
Bottom line: in spite of Maureen's impressive Democratic endorsements, Mike's one-voter-at-a-time grassroots campaign is real competition.