CITY HALL — The field for the City Council race is set and money is starting to flow in, although a bit faster for some than others.
Only five of the 14 qualified candidates reported campaign donations in the first half of the year, while the remainder disclosed goose eggs and some turned in no paperwork at all.
Attorney and long-time local columnist Frank Gruber led the pack, with $19,937 in contributions from family and friends in Santa Monica and across the country.
Although many of his contributors are friends and family, community figures like Katharine King, the original producer of the Twilight Concert Series, Councilmember Bobby Shriver and well-known architects David Forbes Hibbert and Hank Koning also gave to Gruber’s campaign.
Behind him is Shari Davis, a nonprofit policy advisor known for her work in the Santa Monica education community.
Davis has managed to raise $13,725 in cash and just over $600 in non-monetary contributions from her supporters, which include many names in the school community like attorney Tom Larmore and former Board of Education member Barry Snell.
Third in line is Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis with $5,540 raised followed by Planning Commissioner Ted Winterer who has a war chest of $3,740.
Attorney Steve Duron reported $500.
If the past is any measure, Santa Monica elections require big money to reach the roughly 60,000 people eligible to vote in the city.
The two incumbents in the race, Gleam Davis and Terry O’Day, raised around $40,000 and $73,500 respectively in 2010, according to campaign filings.
In that year, both candidates had support from Santa Monicans For Renters’ Rights, a political organization that already has $73,374 on hand this year.
That money will go to support Gleam Davis, O’Day, Winterer and Tony Vazquez, who are all backed by SMRR in the 2012 election.
Gruber believes he will have to quadruple the amount of money that he’s brought in so far if he plans to compete without a SMRR endorsement, although he would have worked to reach voters on his own terms even if he had gotten support from the political group.
“The way I’m running, even if I had got the endorsement I wanted to raise money to run my own campaign,” Gruber said.
Shari Davis didn’t want to show all of her cards on the fundraising front, but indicated that she aimed to bring enough in to get her message out.
“That’s why we started early,” she said. “I’m looking forward to having the funds needed to communicate effectively.”
Despite the SMRR support, O’Day comes into the race with a handicap. His campaign was fleeced by a former treasurer, Kinde Durkee, who plead guilty in March to embezzling $7 million from Democratic campaigns she controlled across California.
Other candidates feel that they don’t have the ability to bring in the big bucks and don’t intend to try.
In an interview from mid-August, attorney Robert Seldon said that he couldn’t compete with what he had heard was $100,000 spent on behalf or against candidates by developers.
“I’d rather have your time than your money,” Seldon said. “What I need is people who know me to introduce me to people who don’t know me, to mention my name and give me credible exposure and vouch for my credibility. I’m just a resident stepping up to help other residents, and we can all do this together if we step up.”
Either way, it’s a little easier than it was in the past to raise money in Santa Monica. The City Council voted in November 2011 to raise the campaign contribution limit from $250 to $325. It was the first time the limit had been changed in 20 years.
The candidates’ next financial statements are due Oct. 5.
On Oct. 15 candidates for the City Council and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified Board of Education will have the opportunity to reach voters for free at the Daily Press’ Squirm Night, a candidates forum. The action begins at 6 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. Auditorium at the Main Library, 601 Santa Monica Blvd. Admission is free.

ashley@smdp.com