Sam Liccardo will not accept a voluntary expenditure limit for the San Jose mayoral runoff. The decision leaves little doubt that the 2014 mayor's race will end up being the most expensive in city history.
Ragan Henningner, Liccardo’s campaign manager, told San Jose Inside that the decision came down to the coordination of resources challenger Dave Cortese, a county supervisor, has at his disposal. Cortese received sole endorsements from the county Democratic Central Committee and the South Bay Labor Council, which can both spend an unlimited amount of funds in contacting potential voters through "member-to-member" communications.
“We thought long and hard about the fundraising path and we decided not to take the voluntary limit, mostly because we’ll be facing the challenge of overcoming what we expect to be millions of contributions to our opponent through various special interests—card clubs, marijuana dispensaries and unions,” Henninger said.
“We have a lot of work to do. We’re taking our campaign to every neighborhood on a grassroots level and every contribution will be important.”
Last year, county Supervisor Cindy Chavez used the support of the DCC and SBLC to run a devastatingly efficient campaign in defeating Teresa Alvarado. Campaigns often receive assistance from independent expenditure committees, but these groups can also hurt their preferred candidate by not staying on message.
Had he accepted the voluntary cap, Liccardo’s camp would be restricted to spending $794,000 in this election cycle. His campaign accepted the cap in the primary, when Liccardo (25.75 percent; 33,521 votes) finished second to Cortese (33.72 percent; 43,887 votes), and is believed to have maxed out on that threshold.
Henninger said the Liccardo camp has not yet set a dollar amount it expects to reach this time around. “I think ballpark will be just over a million, but we’re still trying to figure out what’s reasonable,” she said.
The decision does not affect city contribution limits, which remain set at $1,100 per election cycle.
The latest campaign disclosure forms on file show Cortese’s personal campaign had spent almost $427,000 as of May 17. Liccardo's last filing shows his campaign had spent more than $602,000 as of May 17. Several hundred thousand dollars was spent by other primary challengers, most notably San Jose councilmembers Madison Nguyen, Pierluigi Oliverio and Rose Herrera.
The semi-annual filings for all candidates covering through June 30 will be available at the end of this month.
Silicon Valley’s partisan dynamics cut down the Democratic Party rather than the national Democrat-Republican split. Both Cortese and Liccardo will rely on institutional support, with Cortese taking more a labor-centric segment of the Democratic Party. Liccardo, who has endorsements from current Mayor Chuck Reed and the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, will lean on a more business-oriented portion of the party, in addition to courting conservative voters.
Cortese emailed the following statement, via political consultant Barry Barnes, of the firm Terris Barnes Walters, to San Jose Inside:
"Well over a million dollars was spent between Sam and the superPAC of conservative CEOs supporting him in the primary," Cortese said. "We’re surprised that he is trying to turn back decades of local campaign finance reform by refusing the spending cap. In my opinion, we need less money in politics, not more.”