BY KRISSI HUMBARD — Money and politics are always hot topics, whether it be a local election or a national election. Voters want to know how much is raised, who donated, how much is spent and what money is spent on. Thankfully, city staff work hard to ensure campaign finance reports are posted online and at the city building as close to filing deadlines as possible.
In recent years, the topic of how much money has been raised in local elections has gained more and more attention. In 2015, two candidates raised more than $11,000 each in their respective campaigns. This year, looking at the first two campaign finance reports, one candidate has raised even more. (Final campaign finance reports are due May 9 by 5 p.m.)
According to 2013/2015 campaign finance reports, candidates typically have raised anywhere from $0 to more than $4,000. In the 2015 race, then-mayoral-candidate Candace Hollingsworth, raised $11,250.34 and council candidate Talib Karim raised $12,688.70.
This election, Carrianna Suiter, a candidate for Ward 3, listed campaign contributions totaling $13,242.67 in her campaign finance report.
Some residents have said they worry the high donation amounts set a hard-to-attain precedent for future candidates. And some residents say they think raising this much money is too much for a city-level campaign.
When asked about those concerns, Suiter responded, “I have to admit that I was completely blown away by the level of support I received from my life-long network of friends, colleagues and family. While I feel incredibly honored by their response to my candidacy, I personally believe that money should have a limited role in politics and, as you can see from my filings, I’ve only spent a small fraction of what I’ve raised — I think my final spending levels will be similar to previous Ward 3 races. Like many other candidates, several of my contributions came from friends and family who live outside of our wonderful city, but I’m humbled by their confidence and support all the same.
“In all honestly,” Suiter added, “I do think that my fundraising numbers are at least in part a result of the current political climate, the November election, and the fact that people are feeling more engaged than ever before, which I see as a positive thing.”
Another candidate reporting larger-than-average funds raised is Talib Karim, who is running in Ward 1. Karim reported $8,583.22 in campaign contributions. As stated in another article, Karim defended his fundraising, saying, “What is clear is that it has taken a lot of money to mount a serious challenge against the incumbent and his clique who currently control our City Hall. Further, given the bullying by the incumbent’s supporters, few of my neighbors were comfortable enough to make donations. I am, however, grateful that local business owners as well as family, friends, and colleagues who live outside of Hyattsville were willing to help us raise more money than the other Ward 1 candidates in order to bring a new voice to City Hall. Securing those contributions required expenditures from my campaign that others apparently did not have to incur.”
On the other hand, one candidate running for the council seat in Ward 5 this election is not doing any fundraising. Derrika Durant is self-funding her campaign, and has spent less than $100.
Citing “a candidate’s susceptibility to adverse external influences,” Durant said, “conflicts of interests will arise if a candidate is running on one platform but receives several contributions from donors with alternative agendas. Based on the aforementioned reasons, I have decided to self-fund my campaign for City Council, Ward 5. I refuse to be indebted to anyone and I will not be in anyone’s pocket. My commitment to decreasing poverty level, building the economy, improving education, building diversity, and keeping the City of Hyattsville safe will always remain my priority.”