Campaign Spending Reaches Record Highs in Nation’s Most Expensive City

San Francisco is the most expensive city in the nation, and campaign spending has been keeping pace with the increased costs of living in the City/County. During the 2018 campaign cycle an average of $311,000 was spent per Board of Supervisors candidate, and over $1 million for mayoral candidates.

This is a drastic increase compared to past elections where supervisor candidates spent an average of $241,000 in 2016 or $870,000 for mayoral candidates in 2011, the last time the seat was open.

The figures for mayoral candidates are even more dramatic considering that four of the eight candidates in 2018 spent a total of $88,136. This means that a whopping $8,346,337 was spent on the remaining four candidates. $2,370,428 came from third party sources which were divided only among three of those candidates. All three of those candidates independently spent over $1 million each.

While increased spending on campaigns is not necessarily negative, there is some correlation between money spend and voter turnout, San Francisco is trying to increase transparency of money spent by third party interests. A ballot measure, scheduled for November, would require third party ads to prominently display their top five donors and the amounts they donated. The measure would also limit spending from parties who have land-use decision going before the city within a year, and prohibit LLCs and LPs from donating to campaigns.

Fourth District Supervisor Gordon Mar has also proposed an ordinance which would amend the City’s public campaign finance program to increase spending caps for publicly financed campaigns should more money be spend on behalf of an opponent.

The spending trend doesn’t appear to be slowing down as the first finance reports from active 2019 campaign committees are showing growing figures. Mayor London Breed has already raised $271,000 with no serious challengers, and Dean Preston a challenger for District Five’s Supervisor seat reports raising $200,000. Their elections will both take place in November 2019, leaving much more time to increase their war chests.

Read more from the SF Chronicle.


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