CITY HALL — Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor learned a valuable lesson in 2006 — don’t wait until the last minute to launch a campaign.

So in her re-election bid to serve a fifth term on the City Council, O’Connor is starting more than a year in advance, allowing more time to raise money and complete some of the smaller yet necessary tasks, such as designing a campaign logo, before the busy season begins later in 2010.

The early decision to announce another run came in part because of time management and money.

“This is a global recession,” O’Connor said. “Spreading it over more time, you might be able to accumulate (more money).”

Finances could motivate candidates to declare sooner than they would in a better economy, giving extra time for more fundraisers and donor outreach.

O’Connor kicked off the campaign with a breakfast fundraiser several weeks ago at the Casa del Mar with special guest L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, bringing in about $5,000, which she said will help cover start-up costs.

Starting early gives O’Connor the advantage of essentially having sole access to the local donor base, Bob Stern, the president of the Center for Governmental Studies, said.

“If she is the only one, she gets the donors early and she will get the money early and other (candidates) might not depending on the donors’ budget,” Stern said.

While money played a role in the decision to begin the campaign more than a year before the election, O’Connor said it was also a matter of getting as much work done early as possible, noting that her time is stressed between serving on the council, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and her day job as a consultant in historic preservation.

“I know the kinds of things that can be done early and that is why I am raising money early to get those done,” she said.

There will be three full-term seats up for election next year, including those currently held by councilmen Bob Holbrook and Kevin McKeown. The remaining two years of late Councilman Herb Katz’ term, which is currently being served by Councilwoman Gleam Davis, will also be open for election.

“I haven’t planned any fundraisers yet because most residents don’t begin to think about upcoming elections this far ahead,” McKeown said.

Holbrook, who was first elected in 1990, typically doesn’t make a decision until late spring, though one might come sooner if he goes for a sixth term.

The decision will be based on whether there is a project that he would like to see through.

The early start could be beneficial for the long-serving councilman who, along with other incumbents, is limited in his fundraising ability by the Oaks Initiative, a charter amendment that restricts incumbents from accepting donations from individuals or entities that have received city contracts in which the candidate previously cast an affirmative vote. In the case of corporations and organizations that have received contracts or donations from City Hall, candidates are also barred from receiving donations from any individuals that serve on their board of directors. City Hall also limits donations from an individual to $250 per candidate, per election cycle.

For Holbrook, this also means that he will no longer be able to accept donations from the Kardashian family, which owns Southern California Disposal, the same company that last year received a 15-year contract with City Hall to provide transfer services beginning in 2012.

The Holbrook and Kardashian families have been friends for years.

He estimates that it costs about $75,000 to run a successful campaign in Santa Monica with the bulk of the expenses coming from mailing.

“If I can find 100 people who would give me $250, I’m only a third of the way there and that is a lot of people who will give you that much money,” he said. “Every time I turn around I lose donors just because their company is doing business with the city and anybody who works for that company or spouse can’t be a donor.”

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