Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague outraised the other three candidates for City Council, garnering support from his constituents, family members, fellow elected officials and labor organizations ahead of Tuesday’s election.
The Iowa City Council money race is coming into focus as Election Day draws near. All four candidates submitted campaign finance disclosures to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board’s web reporting system showing how much they raised and spent.
Teague brought in $7,842 from 100 total donors. Megan Alter, another candidate for one of the two at-large seats on the City Council, raised $6,915 from 102 donors. The third at-large candidate, Jason Glass, raised $3,865 from 50 donors. Shawn Harmsen, who is running unopposed for the District B seat, raised $6,259 from 106 donations.
“I think that people really wanted to ensure that the campaign that I was running for this community had some resources,” Teague said.
Like the other candidates, much of Teague’s money went toward expenses like mailers, campaign signs, office supplies and advertising.
Read more coverage on the Iowa City Council election:
Teague and Glass spend their own money on campaign
While Teague outraised the other candidates, Glass ended up spending more than all of his opponents combined.
In total, Glass spent $650 of the money he fundraised for his campaign, but also chose to finance campaign costs early on with $22,334 of his own cash. By comparison, Teague, Alter and Harmsen only spent $17,217 combined.
Glass said campaign startup costs like website creation and design, logo design and advertising, were costs he chose to take on himself. He said he didn’t focus on fundraising during his campaign, but rather reached out in-person and online to potential voters.
“I wanted to make sure I had quality materials and quality web presence and spent what I needed to in order to reasonably do that,” he said. “I am very pleased with the quality of my website, my materials, my Facebook and my logo and yard signs.”
Glass’s disclosure said he spent $6,397 on web fees and $4,627 on printing costs for mailers, among other campaign costs.
Glass said any amount of money would be a financial burden, but he is comfortable with the amount that he spent and views it as a worthy investment to raise the issues he talked about throughout his campaign.
“If I were to run again for something, my expenses would be far lower because a lot of those expenses were for logo and website development. … All that is done and I can use what is already created,” he said.
Teague also loaned his own campaign $6,488. Teague said this showed up on his report as a loan because he was choosing to use his personal credit card rather than get a card to be used specifically for his campaign bank account.
“Essentially when I purchased something, I purchased it on my credit card,” Teague said, adding he did the same thing during his first campaign for City Council.
Teague said getting a bank card for the campaign account is something his campaign treasurer, Rebecca Reedus, said they should do next time. The money he spent on his personal credit card was reimbursed by the funds in his campaign account.
Harmsen and Alter both spent the majority of their campaign contributions, but neither used their own money beyond donating $100 to their campaigns.
Alter, Harmsen and Teague attract Democratic and labor support
One commonality between Teague, Alter and Harmsen was the support they found from labor unions and elected officials from Johnson County and elsewhere in Iowa.
Some prominent names on all three candidates’ donor list include every Johnson County Supervisor except Jon Green; Deidre DeJear, a gubernatorial candidate from Des Moines; state Reps. Amy Nielsen, Liz Bennett and Christina Bohannan; state Sen. Zach Wahls; Coralville Councilor and mayoral candidate Meghann Foster; and North Liberty Councilor RaQuishia Harrington.
Glass received contributions from former Iowa City mayors Matt Hayek and John Balmer; and Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert, who is also Glass’s campaign treasurer. Glass got an endorsement letter from outgoing Iowa City Councilor Susan Mims, who said he would be her only vote for city council this election.
Teague, Alter and Harmsen also received money from Political Action Committees, mostly from the Iowa City area. The PACs are associated with labor groups and unions in the area such as the Cedar Rapids Trades Council CR IC Building Trades PAC, the Iowa City Carpenters PAC, the North Central States Carpenter PAC in Minnesota and the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 125 Political Education Fund.
Alter said she’s glad she got donations from many women, which she attributes to her focus on issues important to women like childcare.
“The fact is that women’s issues are community issues,” she said.
Alter said these donations not only aided her campaign but helped energize her.
Candidates applaud Iowa City limits on campaign contributions
Iowa City is unique in the state because it sets a limit on how much an individual can donate to a candidate’s campaign.
Iowa City passed an ordinance in 2001, which was amended in 2003, that sets a $100 limit per donor for campaigns in Iowa City limits. This does not include the Iowa City Community School District because of its political boundaries
Iowa City Code states no person, and no candidate or candidate’s committee, shall solicit or accept any contribution that will cause the total amount with respect to a single election in support of or opposition to such candidate to exceed $100.
Iowa City Attorney Eric Goers said this law is enforced as a municipal infraction. On the first violation there is a $100 fine. The second infraction carries a $250 fine. The third and any subsequent infractions carry $500 fines.
Harmsen said he thinks this limit prevents candidates from fundraising exorbitant amounts of money from a small amount of sources.
“I’m just happy to be living in a community that actually has a campaign finance donation limit,” Harmsen said.
Teague said he thinks the rule lets everyday people have more opportunity to be part of the process and have equal influence as a PAC or a larger donor.
George Shillcock is the Press-Citizen’s local government and development reporter covering Iowa City and Johnson County. He can be reached at GShillcock@press-citizen.com and on Twitter @ShillcockGeorge