The Illinois State Board of Elections is beginning to publish the campaign disclosure reports of candidates who spent more than $3,000 during the election. At the $3,000-mark, committees have to be created, and records documenting the contributors and how much they donated must be kept.
As we report this week, the big money was in the mayoral race. During the past two filing periods, Mayor Anthony Calderone raised $70,680 in his successful run for reelection. Of that he spent $67,366 on this year’s campaign. He won reelection with 1,548 votes. By our calculation that means he spent 42 bucks and change for each nod from a voter.
Meanwhile, his challenger, the now ousted Commissioner Marty Tellalian, raised $24, 342. Still a tidy sum. And it means Tellalian spent about $18 per vote.
Beyond the $46,338 difference in the campaign war chests, there is the issue of where the money came from. Tellalian ponied up $17,723 of his own money to fund his campaign. So 72 percent of Tellalian’s money was actually Tellalian’s money. Just $1,100 of Tellalian’s total came from outside of Forest Park.
Calderone’s coffers, on the other hand, were bolstered by $26,530 in contributions from outside Forest Park. That’s 38 percent of his war chest. Calderone raised more money from outside town than Tellalian raised in town.
In the last two filing periods reported by Citizens for Calderone, the mayor’s campaign committee, just under 40 percent of the funding came from persons or companies located outside of Forest Park; and, in two cases, in other states. We’re having difficulty understanding why people who do not live in Forest Park need to inject $26,530 into the campaign committee of a small-town mayor. Unfortunately, our curiosity was not satisfied by a return call or email from the mayor.
A lot of numbers in this editorial. Here’s another one. Just 34 percent of local registered voters turned out to vote in this intensely contested election. While discouraging, that is not a shocking number. Voter turnout in most local elections is weak.
But it raises the question of whether candidates spend an exorbitant amount of money on campaign literature and events to try and sell themselves hard to a small pool of potential voters. Or whether there is a small pool of potential voters because residents are turned off by the bickering in village government and the intensity and negativity of the campaign.
In our view, it shouldn’t be necessary to raise all that money to run for mayor in a town the size of Forest Park. It shouldn’t cost 21 grand or 67 grand to run a campaign.
Perhaps the public’s nearly invisible role in local government has something to do with the poor voter turnout. Perhaps the opposition is cowed by the money being spent. The least likely answer for a mayor who won reelection by just 200 votes while outspending his opponent three-to-one is that he has received a mandate from the contented masses.
That’s not how we read this election. But it is how we expect Anthony Calderone has read the results. So we expect more of the same. More fighting on a split council. More blaming others. More self-aggrandizement. Still less outreach. Little effort at building consensus.
We’re open to being surprised, Mr. Mayor.