These City Council Candidates Are Picking Up Fat Checks From Donors

Even if the public financing system were robust, having friends with money would be useful.

Dan Ryan at Rose Festival City Fair (Chris Nesseth)

More than 70 candidates are running for 12 seats on the expanded Portland City Council, and most of them are participating in the Small Donor Elections program, which matches small campaign contributions with taxpayer dollars by up to 9 to 1. It aims to level the playing field, ensuring that candidates who get more smaller contributions can go to bat against those with a few deep-pocketed pals.

That’s the idea, anyway. Last week, WW reported that the program had started exploring ways to allow campaigns to accept more in-kind contributions because the program’s available dollars were stretched so thin across so many candidates seeking office.

Even if the public financing system were robust, having friends with money would be useful. Well-off donors can splurge on independent expenditures designed to boost one set of candidates over another, while maintaining distance from the candidate’s official messaging. Such independent campaigns aided Mayor Ted Wheeler’s reelection bid four years ago and City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez’s debut in city politics in 2022.

Small Donor Elections offers a useful measurement of where that support lies by tracking the size of donations. “Micro donations” constitute any contributions under $25; “mega donations,” the largest tracked, are anything over $1,000.

Here are the 10 candidates with the most contributions over $250. None has received contributions over $1,000.

Dan Ryan, Portland city commissioner, District 2: 93

Ben Hufford, architect, District 4: 61

Mariah Hudson, OHSU health care communicator, District 2: 53

Olivia Clark, legislative advocate, District 4: 42

Stan Penkin, Pearl District Neighborhood Association president, District 4: 41

Jonathan Tasini, political strategist, District 2: 40

Steve Novick, former Portland city commissioner, District 3: 36

Tony Morse, recovery advocate, District 4: 32

Elana Pirtle-Guiney, policy consultant, District 2: 32

Mike Marshall, Oregon Recovers executive director, District 2: 29

Ballot buddy Pencil This article is part of Willamette Week’s Ballot Buddy, our special 2024 election coverage. Read more Ballot Buddy here.

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