If I have one idea that ties together the ideas in my campaign, it’s the fact of how politics is broken. And, I believe, big money is the largest single reason for that.
Look at the 2020 presidential race and you can see the problem larger than life. President Trump and the RNC will raise and spend 100s of millions of dollars on his reelection campaign. The eventual Democratic nominee may not match that amount, but they will come close. Or look at the race for Tennessee governor, where the candidates combined to raise and spend over $50 million on that race.
Local politics is not immune to this problem. Take, for example, the District 4 County Commission election in 2016, not coincidentally the seat for which I am running in 2020. According to the financial disclosure forms you can find at the Knox County Election Commission website, the winning candidate in that race raised about $78,000 and spent about $75,000. The winning candidate received 2594 votes in that election, besting his opponent by 689 votes. His opponent raised a little less than $25,000 and spent about $21,000.
I think it’s important to point out some details about where the money in the 2016 race for County Commission District 4 came from. It’s these facts, more than anything else, that convinced me to take a stand on big money in politics.
Of the winning candidate’s $78,000 raised, 60% came from big money and Political Action Committees (PACs). By big money, I mean $500 and $1000 checks. The winning candidate received 37 $500 checks and 26 checks of $1000 or more. It also appears that four PACs donated to the winning candidate’s campaign as well. On the other hand, the winning candidate’s opponent appears to have loaned herself over half of her less than $25,000 raised and didn’t take any $1000 checks. In local races, the maximum amount that may be donated is $1,600.
But, Mr. Candidate, why are you talking about the money raised by the candidates who ran in 2016? Neither of them is running this time. It’s a fair point. But, like I said, it was this information more than anything which has influenced how I want to run my race. If either of the Republicans in my race end up not pursuing big money and PAC donations, then that’s an unmitigated win for the voters of Knox County. But if they do go after those donations, you can be sure I will bring it up.
Aside from making a pledge only to accept small dollar donations during my campaign, what else does all this mean? It means I won’t be spending my time seeking out donations to fund my campaign. We’re not independently wealthy, but we’re comfortable. Paying for things out of our savings and whatever small dollar donations I might get will mean that I will be careful with my spending. I’ll spend money where I need to, but not any more than that. And you can expect, just as with my campaign funds, I will be equally careful with the taxpayers’ money.
This also means that my campaign is going to be focused on the needs of all of the citizens and not catering to the people who can give me big checks or the PACs who have an agenda behind their donations. I think that’s how politics should be. Maybe it’s never been that way in the history of the world, but this is what I believe. And I’m going to try and run my campaign according to my beliefs. I hope you agree and will consider voting for me.