Any Columbia resident who hadn’t seen Laura Nauser’s name before the City Council race began has probably seen it by now. According to campaign-
finance reports filed with the Boone County Clerk’s office earlier this week, Nauser — a candidate for the Fifth Ward council seat — has raised $21,222 in funds for her campaign, money that she said she is using to get her name out before the election.
Nauser is competing with Gayle Troutwine and Joseph Vradenburg for the Fifth Ward seat that will be vacated by incumbent John John. Neither of Nauser’s opponents raised money from outside sources, whereas most of Nauser’s funds came in the form of contributions from business owners, realtors and developers. Troutwine contributed $5,000 of her own money, and Vradenburg decided not to spend any money on his campaign.
“It’s pretty much getting my name out there,” Nauser said of the funds. “I didn’t go into the City Council race to just hope that people saw my name. To throw my name in, and in happenstance get elected, that’s not how I like to do things.”
Nauser said she has spent a lot of the money on signs and noted that she didn’t plan on raising so much money.
“None of this was pre-planned or pre-calculated. It kind of just fell into place since I threw my name into the race,” Nauser said.
Nauser contributed $5,000 of her own money to the campaign. She said the rest of the money came from fund raising and the contributions of friends, neighbors and people she had never even met before.
Developer Rhonda Carlson said her reasons for donating money to Nauser’s campaign were two-fold.
“She is the only person who asked, first of all,” Carlson said. “Secondly, she seems to be a level-headed voice of reason. I don’t agree with her on everything, but she seems to have a moderate voice.”
Although many of Nauser’s contributors are business owners and developers, Nauser said she is running on more than a business platform.
“I care more about the outlook of Columbia than just how many businesses we have here or how much land we annex into the city,” Nauser said. “I’m a member of the community; I have children I’ve raised here. I’m a more rounded person than to just have one focus. I think the people who know me know this, and I think that’s why they’ve contributed.”
Her opponents are skeptical. Troutwine, who has used only personal funds to finance her campaign, said business-oriented contributors should make the public wary.
“I think this is further evidence of the extreme position of Laura Nauser,” Troutwine said. “It’s flagrant. There’s been no attempt to hide who’s supporting her. In fact, earlier today I commented that I appreciated the candor of the situation. Thank God for sunshine, that the voters can have this information.”
Vradenburg said he decided not to spend any money on his campaign, and because of this, he did not want to accept money from others. He said extensive fund raising like Nauser’s may merit some thought by Columbia residents on the process of running and campaigning for City Council.
“I think that if individuals are gong to spend tens of thousands to compete for an unpaid position that it changes the entire dynamic of who has a legitimate shot of winning these seats,” Vradenburg said. “Perhaps it’s time for the city residents to consider if they would like to change the process by which City Council members are elected, perhaps by making them partisan positions by which interested individuals can use the resources of parties.”
While Nauser hadn’t expected to raise as much money as she did, she isn’t going to complain.
“To be honest, I wasn’t really planning on doing any fund raising ,” Nauser said, “but people offered and these things are expensive.”