More than $200,000 was spent in last year’s Santa Monica College Board of Trustees race.
Six candidates sought four seats but the two losers, both challengers, outspent the four incumbent winners.
Dennis Frisch dropped $52,683 and Maria Loya spent $47,593 but placed fifth and sixth respectively.
Andrew Walzer, who placed fourth, was the top-spending winner, at $30,493, followed by Louise Jaffe, who came in second and spent just over $26,000. Nancy Greenstein, who was the top vote-getter, spent only $22,439 and Barry Snell, who, having been appointed, won his first election to the board, spent $17,269.
Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights kicked in close to $8,000, supporting the incumbents despite the fact that Loya was a recused member of SMRR’s Steering Committee.
Last year’s SMC board race was by far the most expensive in years. Next to nothing was spent in the previous two elections, which were uncontested, and the 2008 election, which featured four candidates seeking three seats, generated about $45,000 in campaign finance. That year’s loser spent nothing.
$2.8 million spent in 2014 election
Spending was up across the board in Santa Monica’s 2014 election despite record-low voter turnout.
More than a million was spent in the City Council race and close to $300,000 was spent on the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education race. Ballot measures drew $1.3 million in spending thanks to a fight over the future of Santa Monica Airport.
All told, more than $2.8 million was spent on mailers, robocalls, and other campaign costs last year.
For context, that’s about how much City Hall budgeted pay contractors for water main replacements in fiscal year 2012-13 or the cost of the 2013 Lincoln Boulevard resurfacing project, which was paid for largely through grants.
In the last four elections, more than $7 million has been spent on Santa Monica politics. That’s $1.4 million more than City Council recently pledged to spend on the bikeshare program that’s in the works — and that will generate revenue.
$7 million is also the cost of the Big Blue Bus stop makeover that residents and politicians have criticized (BBB is working on fixing the stops, which were financed largely through grants).
Despite the fact that election costs are rising each year, voter turnouts are diminishing.
Only 28,333 people cast ballots in Santa Monica despite a registration total near 60,000 and population in the 90,000s, meaning nearly $100 was spent per voter.
It was not the year of a presidential election, which usually draws higher turnouts, but it was lower than recent off-year elections as well.
In 2010, more than 38,000 ballots were cast, 64 percent of the electorate compared to just over 48 percent last year.
In 2006, close to 60 percent of the electorate showed up and 2002, it was nearly 55 percent.