COLUMBIA — Candidates for three seats on the Columbia City Council have filed their first round of reports on campaign contributions and spending in advance of the April 2 election.
The reports were filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission as required 40 days before the election. The candidates include incumbent Bob McDavid and Sid Sullivan for mayor; incumbent Gary Kespohl and Karl Skala for the Third Ward council seat; and incumbent Daryl Dudley, Ian Thomas and Bill Weitkemper for the Fourth Ward seat.
Disparity in mayoral race
Demographically, donors to the campaigns of Sullivan and McDavid, who seeks a second term, represent different groups in Columbia.
Of Sullivan's 28 listed donors, 15 are retirees.
Many of McDavid's 32 listed donors run or work for businesses that are members of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. Bank presidents, attorneys, real estate agents and doctors make up the majority of his contributor list.
Altogether, McDavid reported raising $12,580 thus far. Sullivan reported raising $2,570. He also took out a $3,000 loan from his wife, Joan Sullivan. The total difference between the two candidates' campaign receipts was $6,810.
Sullivan and McDavid were among five candidates for mayor when McDavid won in 2010.
Although Sullivan trails McDavid by a wide margin in fundraising, supporter Ken Midkiff, a conservation activist who donated $150 to Sullivan's campaign, said he believes Sullivan can win the race.
"I don't downplay the extent of the influence that money plays in political campaigns," he said. But "I would think that Sullivan's views are more in keeping with the majority of Columbians."
Midkiff said he supports Sullivan because he thinks he would do a better job at creating legislation than McDavid has during his nearly three years in the seat.
"The current mayor reacts to propositions," Midkiff said. "Sid Sullivan says that he would be proactive in planning. I think the current mayor does not represent the citizens of Columbia but represents only moneyed interest."
Scott Orr, counsel at the law offices of Edwin W. Orr, LLC, supported McDavid's campaign with a $100 contribution. He believes McDavid, given more time in the position, could become the greatest mayor Columbia has seen in 75 years.
"I think we're extremely lucky to have a man of his talent willing to dedicate so much of his time without compensation just for the good of the community," he said.
Orr said three key accomplishments have cemented McDavid's status as a great leader: his help in selecting Mike Matthes as city manager, his work to put the city's pension program on solid financial footing and his efforts to improve service at Columbia Regional Airport.
"Mr. McDavid addressed (these issues) forthright, boldly, and he did what had to be done," Orr said.
Despite the large financial gap between the two candidates, Sullivan said he does not believe his run will go unnoticed.
"We're still making money and we'll raise money right up until the election," Sullivan said. “I will have enough to get my message out.”
Kespohl's tenure attracts support
Kespohl reported receiving seven itemized donations from Feb. 6 to Feb. 16. Those donations totaled about $1,720. That's almost 82 percent less than the sum that Skala, the challenger, collected.
This marks the third time Kespohl and Skala have competed for the Third Ward seat. Skala defeated Kespohl in 2007, but Kespohl took the seat in 2010.
"We're just getting started. I'm bringing out the signs from my previous campaign," Kespohl said, adding that he is still putting together his campaign committee and that he recently deposited a few more donations.
"There's going to be a fundraiser next week," he said.
The largest donation of $500 came from Larry Potterfield, founder and CEO of MidwayUSA, a Boone County company that sells guns, ammunition, gun accessories and hunting equipment. Potterfield could not be reached for comment regarding his support for Kespohl.
Five of the seven itemized donations equaled or exceeded $100.
The remaining two contributors, Don Rupp and Ray Noll, donated $25 and $50, respectively.
Noll said he has known Kespohl for 30 years. He donated to the incumbent during his run for the Third Ward seat in 2010, too.
"He's the most honest, pragmatic individual I've ever met," Noll said. "I'm very impressed with the work he's done for the city thus far."
Noll was particularly pleased with Kespohl's work on the city employee pension plan that the City Council approved unanimously in July 2012. It offered a solution to the $117.8 million unfunded pension liability and is projected to save the city $50 million over 20 years.
Noll also found Kespohl's work on refinancing the city's bond issue debt impressive. That effort will save the city millions of dollars in interest payments over the life of the bonds.
"He listens to all sides of an issue, and he has no preconceived notions about what should be done to fix a problem," Noll said. "He hears the facts, evaluates them and does what is best for the city."
Rupp, who had not donated to Kespohl previously, said he appreciated Kespohl's business-like approach to spending money as well as his sense of knowledge when forming policy.
"He looks into all the angles, and as a result, he is a very efficient money manager," Rupp said. "That is extremely important."
Kespohl "needs to be re-elected," Rupp said.
Skala and Thomas share supporters
Skala's campaign reported raising $9,471 from roughly 100 donors. That includes two donations of $500, one from Kurt and Patrice Albert, the other from Elizabeth Peters.
Thomas reported raising $16,270, the most of any candidate in this round. Although he has donors from as far as Nashville and Denver, the vast majority are from Columbia and include retirees, Shakespeare's Pizza, radiologists and Gov. Jay Nixon's policy director, Jeff Harris.
Between advertisements and mailings, Skala has spent $575 of that total. Skala's campaign also has hired consultants from Progressive Political Partners, at a cost of $500.
Progressive Political Partners also is working for Thomas' campaign in the Fourth Ward. Skala and Thomas also drew from similar networks of support.
More than 28 donors contributed to both Skala's and Thomas' campaigns. Included in that list are First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt and Susan "Tootie" Burns, who ran unsuccessfully for the vacant Fifth Ward seat in February.
Thomas' campaign has also received support from Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe.
David Sapp, a retiree, donated $100 to Skala's campaign in addition to a $50 donation to Thomas. Sapp, who has supported Skala in the past, said he appreciates the candidate’s balanced approach to city issues.
Sapp said Skala is extremely knowledgeable about city government because of his work on the City Council and with the Planning and Zoning Commission.
“Even though he lost a few years back, he stayed active in city government, and I just think he has an amazing dedication to the community," Sapp said.
David Leuthold, who donated $150 to each campaign, said both candidates are progressive, capable and intelligent. Leuthold has known Skala for about six years and Thomas for more than 10. He said they have good judgment and are willing to work hard on the council. Skala, he said, proved his work ethic during his time as a councilman.
In particular, Leuthold appreciates Thomas' efforts to increase accessibility for pedestrians to downtown as head of the PedNet Coalition.
“I was very fortunate that all my life I was able to walk to work, and I think it’s appropriate to try to make that available for all people,” Leuthold said.
In addition to the similarities in outside support, Thomas received a $100 donation from Skala's wife, Mahree Skala. Thomas and his wife, Ellen, gave $100 to Skala's campaign.
Skala said the candidates attended each other's kickoff events, as well.
"It’s safe to say that our views are more consistent with each other’s than they are with our opponents',' Skala said.
Thomas also received $750 in contributions from his father-in-law, former Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman.
Application Software Inc. President John Riddick has worked with Thomas on the board of PedNet and knew him through Hindman. He felt Thomas would be a better person for the position than Dudley.
"I really like the way he thinks," he said. "He'll be good for Columbia."
With nearly 200 donors, Thomas has pulled far ahead of Weitkemper.
"I'm going to have to do more with less," Weitkemper said. "That's what the city ought to be doing anyway."
A former city sewer superintendent who retired on the same day he announced he would run for the Fourth Ward council seat, Weitkemper reported raising a total of $3,885. Of that total, $1,700 came from four of his family members: his wife, son, brother and father.
Incumbent Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley's report had not been made available to the public. Dudley said his campaign was late getting his report to the commission because of the snowstorm Feb. 21. He filed it last Friday.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.