One East Palo Alto City Council candidate has raised more than 10 times the amount of monetary campaign contributions as her other competitors, according to campaign-finance records.
The latest filings, which are required by the state, show that East Palo Alto's seven candidates have mostly run grassroots campaigns with contributions ranging between $2,000 and roughly $3,600. But candidate Regina Wallace-Jones, a tech executive who also lists herself as a real estate investor on her Statement of Economic Interest form, has raised $33,012 thus far, according to her latest filing that covers campaign finances through Oct. 20.
Wallace-Jones has obtained contributions from many tech executives and a few developers, including Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg ($600); Sand Hill Property Company ($400), the city's largest landowner of low-income rent-controlled properties; and Sand Hill's affiliate, Woodland Park Communities ($200). The contributions are notable because the community is undergoing housing displacement of longtime residents due to inflated regional housing prices and gentrification. Many residents claim tech employees who desire to live near the adjacent Facebook and nearby Google campuses have added significantly to the problem.
Many of Wallace-Jones' local donors are employees of companies where she previously worked and, presumably, where she has developed a circle of contacts and friends, including Google, eBay and Facebook, as well as donations from executives at many other technology firms, attorneys and other professionals. A few donations stand out: Facebook's Sandberg; Pat Coffey, vice president of operations for Woodland Park Communities; and Mike Kramer, a real estate executive with Sand Hill Property Company. Court Skinner, another council candidate, contributed $600; and a political action committee, San Mateo Building Trades Joint Council PAC, contributed $250.
Wallace-Jones has received a few donations from East Palo Alto entities and individuals, including from StreetCode Academy CEO Olatunde Sobomehin (Wallace-Jones is a founding board president and current board member) and former East Palo Alto Councilman A. Peter Evans and his wife, Keisha Evans.
Most of her contributors donated small amounts of $25, $50, $100 and $200. Among them is a towel folder at a YMCA in Woodinville, Washington, and a black belt from Katy, Texas. There are also real estate investors from Georgia and school district employees from the Southern California area where Wallace-Jones grew up.
The sum to Wallace-Jones' campaign is far less than that of candidates in neighboring cities. (Four out of five Palo Alto council candidates have raised more than $50,000 to date.) But Wallace-Jones' sizable coffers by East Palo Alto standards still give her an advantage in communications and visibility over her competitors. She spent $28,618 through Oct. 20 for lawn signs, campaign management, a candidates forum event, social media, mailers and other expenses.
In contrast, Court Skinner, the next highest-earning and highest-spending candidate, raised $4,323 through Oct. 27, which includes a $2,000 loan from his campaign, according to his campaign-disclosure statement. He spent $4,100 for handouts and flyers, yard and car signs and miscellaneous office, postage and related materials, according to his campaign statement. His donors include a Stanford University research chemist, a retiree, Menlo Park attorney Owen Byrd and an AT&T technician.
Candidate Patricia Lopez received $3,679 ($1,179 in small contributions and she lent her campaign $2,500) and expended $1,838 to date for flyers, campaign signs, office supplies and fundraising events.
Mayor and incumbent Ruben Abrica received $3,200 ($1,000 in monetary contributions and $400 in non-monetary contributions, in addition to loaning his campaign $1,800. He received $500 from UA Local 467 Plumbers, Steamfitters, and Refrigeration Fitters and $400 in advertising from La Bamba Magazine. He paid out $2,451, including for campaign literature and campaign paraphernalia, according to his campaign-disclosure statement.
Incumbent Donna Rutherford raised $2,682 through Oct. 28. She obtained four donations over $100, including $100 from Corinne Calfee, a Berkeley attorney who represents developer Woodland Park Communities before the city's Rent Stabilization Board; $250 from PG&E; $100 from Menlo Park attorney Owen Byrd; and $132 from Robert Fisk of Stanford. She received $450 in monetary contributions and $2,100 in loans and has expended $1,553.81. Rutherford did not itemize her expenses.
Of the remaining candidates, Randal Fields filed an Officeholder Campaign Statement, which is filed by candidates who don't have an official campaign committee and who will receive and spend less than $2,000 during the calendar year. Bernardo Huerta did not file any financial statements, East Palo Alto City Clerk Maria Buell said.
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