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Campaigns running near empty

With new rules and a stagnant economy, fundraising levels for this election have dropped considerably, candidates say.

March 08, 2011|By Melanie Hicken, melanie.hicken@latimes.com

CITY HALL — Campaign fundraising for the City Council race is down 90% compared to 2007 — the last time there were two seats in the running — records show, a trend also seen in the races for school board and Glendale Community College trustees.

In the first seven weeks of 2011, the six candidates vying for two spots on the Glendale City Council have raised a combined $23,231, according to the first round of campaign disclosure forms filed with the City Clerk’s Office.

That contrasts sharply with the same period for the 2007 election season — when eight candidates battling for two seats on the City Council raised more than $180,000 combined, according to campaign disclosure forms.

By this time in 2007, Rafi Manoukian — the then-incumbent who lost his seat to City Councilman John Drayman — had already raised nearly $90,000. This year, as a challenger to get back on the council, Manoukian has raised roughly $4,600, records show.

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“We are trying to encourage a more grassroots campaign as opposed to a fundraising campaign,” he said. “So our focus is more outreach to the community as opposed to raising funds.”

Manoukian and other candidates also attributed the anemic figures to a protracted recession, in which voters don’t necessarily have the discretionary cash to donate to a campaign.

Candidates also pointed to stricter campaign finance rules passed by the City Council in 2008. While the regulations affected a portion of the 2009 election fundraising period, the election on April 5 is the first cycle to come under the new rules from start to finish.

“We have a $1,000 limit, and you’re starting to see the effects of it to a great deal,” said incumbent City Councilman Dave Weaver, who ultimately voted to approve the stricter fundraising rules.

With roughly $9,000 raised so far, Weaver has the largest campaign chest of the six City Council candidates. Roughly two thirds of his contributions have come from individuals and businesses located outside the city of Glendale, which he said was partly because the new limits had forced him to “reach out to a wider spectrum” of potential donors.

While candidates say they rules have worked in leveling the playing field for challengers, they also expressed concern that less campaign cash means fewer signs, advertisements and mailings that traditionally remind voters to hit the polls on April 5.

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