Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times
In the race to represent District 4 on Dana Point City Council, Mike Frost leads with more dollars raised while opponent Gary Newkirk leads with more individuals making contributions.
The contest is not nearly as close in District 5, with Michael Villar bringing in more than $6,000 in monetary contributions and Benjamin Bebee reportedly bringing in about $600.
Candidates who raise or spend $2,000 or more during a calendar year for their campaign are required to submit a Form 460, per regulations set by the Fair Political Practices Commission. The latest campaign statements reflect contributions and expenditures made up until Oct. 17. Finance reports on the remaining time leading up to the election will not be due until February of next year.
Frost holds the highest dollar amount for monetary contributions, with a total of $14,766. That figure does not include Frost’s self-funding through a loan but does include donations less than $99 each, although donors’ names and their amounts are not listed in the reports. Small donations added up to $344.78. Frost estimates that about 6-10 people made those small donations.
“I planned on self-funding my campaign, and did so with my initial loan,” Frost said. “I then had a signature gathering event and received a bunch of small, mostly symbolic donations from our friends with young families; about a dozen friends and neighbors made small donations to kick off the campaign.”
Frost says that while he’s grateful for the financial support, he insists donations will not change how he represents the residents.
“I know the residents of District 4. I was out walking this district every day long before I decided to run for city council,” Frost said. “I feel like I have a good understanding of what they want, and I’ll represent all of them and balance their interests.
As of Oct. 17, Newkirk had brought in $10,384. But of the donors who contributed more than $99, Newkirk holds a slight lead with 27 total contributions. Donations less than $99 added up to $1,568. According to Newkirk, 52 donations comprise that dollar amount.
“I think the more small donors you have, that shows a broader base of support,” Newkirk said. “That’s really what I’ve been seeking out. Everyone has a voice and can make a difference even with small donations.”
Newkirk says he decided early on he would not consider or accept any endorsement or money from a group that had any chance of coming in front of council. But he sees the biggest issue in campaign finance as outside funding from political action committees.
“I acknowledge that some of my donors are from out of town. But I know these individuals personally. Just three PACs have spent money to either oppose me or support my opponent, spending roughly 150% of what I’ve brought in from more than 50 people,” Newkirk said. “I think that’s just, in principle, wrong.”
Earlier in October, the California Homeowners Association spent nearly $10,000 in mailers to oppose Newkirk. The OCTaxPAC, sponsored by the Orange County Taxpayers Association, as well as the National Association of Realtors Fund, spent nearly $10,000 in support of Frost.
“At the end of the day, a vote is the most valuable thing a resident can give to a candidate and I assume that the people who made donations to my campaign believe in my message,” Frost said. “They know that I won’t be the kind of elected official who will be swayed by donations. That’s why they support me.”
In District 5, Villar observes that his race against Bebee has been cordial and respectful.
“I have been humbled by all contributions, whether it be $5 or the maximum of $810,” Villar said. “I made it a point to focus my fundraising on individual contributions from friends, family, and my Capo Beach neighbors.”
While Villar’s contributions bring him in third place overall with $6,175, he says the donations have been more than enough to get signage, T-shirts and flyers. In fact, he says he turned down recent donations, as he had already exceeded his goal. But Villar believes there should be additional limits on campaigns.
“Running for city council should remain respectful and cordial and should not be influenced by any PACs,” Villar said. “I think what is happening in District 4 is unacceptable and really casts a dark cloud on our local politics. Dana Point residents should decide our elections, not outside influence.”
Frost, Newkirk and Bebee have also spoken against the negative mailers that went out to oppose Newkirk.
“I think all candidates have conducted themselves well,” Bebee said. “Sadly, special interest groups are part of the political landscape at this point.”
Since Bebee’s fundraising has not exceeded $2,000, he is not required to submit contribution and spending reports. He tells Dana Point Times that his campaign has been self-funded, spending about $600. He says that after the California Secretary of State’s approval of his statement of organization, he plans to seek donations.
The constituents of Districts 4 and 5 will pick the inaugural councilmembers to represent those seats on Tuesday, Nov. 3.