Candidates discuss the green in grassroots

By Perry Smith

Signal Managing Editor

Speaking to the candidates for the 25th Congressional District, one theme appears with consistency: Candidates acknowledge that anyone who wants to win the district in 2020 will have to do a good job of raising money from outside the district, due to the influx of outside funding that has been injected into the 2018 and 2020 campaigns of Rep. Katie Hill.

Whether it was the leading fundraiser, Hill, D-Agua Dulce, who has more than $1 million in her coffers after the first six months of the election cycle, or Sgt. Mark Cripe, who came in at what he referred to as the “tail end” at a little over $15,000 — naturally, the candidates shared differing perspectives, which can change when money becomes involved.

(A by-the-numbers look at the candidates’ recent FEC disclosures)

“The way that I see it is that you have the number of people who are supporting you with small dollars … that shows your grassroots support,” Hill said. “They’re not the ones who are going to get you the high-dollar total, right? Because they are chipping in whatever they can, they’re chipping in $5, $25 etc. So we have over 10,000 donors just in the last six months (referring to more than $200,000 in unitemized, less-than-$200 donations). If you just look at how much the money is, that’s going to be concentrated in some of the bigger donors.”

Cripe, a veteran who runs the Sheriff’s Department’s countywide intervention program for at-risk youth, in his first race as a candidate, discussed what he questioned as a potentially “dangerous” reality early on, even as he acknowledged its necessity. 

“Well, obviously, the traditional way is a lot of phone-calling,” Cripe said, noting the costs mounted when you considered the advertising needed, the consultants necessary to direct that advertising, for a campaign. 

However, both Cripe and challenger Mike Garcia noted the national success that the Democratic Party had in bringing in money from all over the country into the 25th in 2018 changed the game, and the degree to which outside-the-district fundraising is necessary. “The big thing is, the district itself doesn’t produce large numbers,” Cripe said. “Any large numbers the candidates get come from outside the district.”

Angela Underwood Jacobs, a community banker from Lancaster who’s also involved in the AV community, said her fundraising efforts reflected that she was “the people’s choice” for the 25th Congressional District — her FEC disclosures for “individual, itemized” totals show she had the highest percentage of her dollars raised in the 25th.  

“What they’re really saying when they donate to us is that they’re giving me their support, but what matters at the end of the day is that they vote,” she said. 

“When I have someone who sends me $10 or $25, I’m thinking, ‘Wow, they sent me what they could, and I really appreciate that,’ but at the same time, I know it’s going to take a lot of money to get that seat back. I’m reaching out one day at a time.”

Similarly, Garcia said he was focused on “grassroots” at this stage of the game, which was also reflected in his report. About one-third of his reportable itemized donations came from 25th District addresses, excluding his $125,000 self-loan, which he wanted voters to know was an investment in his candidacy.

“I’m clearly focusing on the grassroots, and the local investments, right now; but for us to be successful in both the primary and the general, we need help from outside the district. That’s it in a nutshell.

“What the national-level support allows you to do is to operate in the same coordinate system as the incumbent,” said Garcia, a Raytheon executive who’s also a veteran.

Cripe said he’d heard Americans spend around $1 billion each year on campaigns, a figure he considered “staggering,” when you consider half of that could make a serious impact on social issues in communities across America.

“And I would love to have some great moral high ground to say we’re intentionally running a ‘super-poor’ campaign,” he said with a laugh, while noting his concern with some of the numbers. 

“How dangerous is it when outside our district is funding our candidates? Is that a dangerous thing?” he asked rhetorically.

“But I understand it, and I’m not above it,” he acknowledged. 

After all, he added, he’s got a campaign to run.

Challenger Suzette Martinez Valladares did not respond to a request for comment as of the publication of this story.

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