Donors pony up for Breckenridge council campaigns
Ryan Summerlin April 29, 2012
BRECKENRIDGE – Though this year’s race for town council didn’t seem to elicit the high spending of past years, it was marked by big donations to some candidates.
Wendy Wolfe, who successfully won a seat on council, received nearly $2,500 in campaign contributions from various private donors in Breckenridge as of the March 30 reporting deadline.
Officially Gary Gallagher, who was also elected with the highest number of votes, received nearly $500 in non-monetary campaign contributions, in the form of meet-and-greets hosted by friends, according to campaign finance reports filed with the town and Gallagher himself.
Ben Brewer, Amy Perchick and Peter Joyce did not accept campaign donations of any kind, according to the campaign finance reports.
Wolfe said she did not solicit the donations that came into her campaign and that the money did not come with any expectations if she were to be elected.
“These people know me, so they know I will be fair-minded, I will listed to people, do my homework and I will come to a conclusion on an issue, but not based on pressure or money,” Wolfe said. “I certainly wouldn’t be swayed by a contribution.”
Gallagher covered all of his own campaign expenses, but accepted contributions in the form of meet-and-greet events hosted by friends.
“I didn’t want any of my friends to write me a check in support,” Gallagher said. “I said, ‘I’m going to pay for everything myself.'”
Other candidates opted not to accept any donations, for reasons ranging from logistics – Perchick said she didn’t know the process for setting up a campaign committee – to ethics.
“I made a philosophical call, which was it’s just going to be me and I’m not going to draw a bunch of other people into it and make it about the money,” said now-Councilman Ben Brewer, who made the decision not to accept donations against the advice of some of his family members. “If I raise a bunch of money and I get elected based on how much advertising I can do, I don’t think then it would have been about my ideas.”
Brewer did accept donations during his unsuccessful bid for council in 2010.
This election, the candidates almost unanimously agree, was more about outreach and forming personal connections than it was about campaign spending.
“I think time played more into the results (of the election) than money,” Perchick, who was unsuccessful in her bid for council, said. “Gary’s full-time job was campaigning, and I didn’t have the time or energy to do that.”
The candidates agreed that, despite their common use of yard signs and newspaper ads, talking to voters in coffee houses was a popular campaign tactic. They said it was not uncommon to see other hopefuls out talking to people in Breckenridge’s cafes during the campaign.
“They talk about … campaigning door to door, and I do think that door-to-door in our community is replaced a lot by coffee-shop talk,” Wolfe said. “I think that’s the strongest thing that one can do, and I think it’s the most important thing you can do to campaign.”
Of course, coffee isn’t free.
Gallagher said the $500-$600 he spent over the course of 65 coffee-house conversations during his campaign probably went a long way to helping him land a seat on council.
“When I started out I think I had the least name recognition of all the candidates running for Breck,” he said. “I did a lot of one-on-one meetings. … Was that helpful to me? I would say it probably was. … For me that was money well spent.”
Total campaign spending information will not be available until May, the deadline to file final campaign finance reports.