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How Much Would It Cost To Take Over LA’s City Council?

Less than you’d think!

A couple nights ago a blue check mark guy tweeted this:

To which Ace Katano of Ground Game LA replied:

So I did a breakdown on basically how much it costs to buy the city government of Los Angeles (population: 4 million):

The current 15 seat city council received about $12 million in contributions from their combined 2015 and 2017 races (even and odd district election years respectively). That’s about what Gil Cisneros spent to win CA’s 39th congressional district (population 711,64) last year in the second most expensive election of its kind in history. Add the mayorship and you’re looking at about $15.88 million.

So $16 million should safely buy you the city of Los Angeles, if you have to spend as much as these candidates do to win, which we don’t believe you do.

If you break down the numbers on how much each candidate spent per vote they received, the results get pretty interesting. In 2017 Eric Garcetti had to spend $11.74 for every vote received. Bob Blumenfield got the best deal at $11.43 per vote…in an unopposed election. Curren Price Jr. was the big spender at a whopping $76.47 a vote. The average for city council was $34.89/vote. Our opponent in CD13, Mitch O’Farrell, spent $24.97/vote, (much of which presumably ended up as the door knockers covering the sidewalks I stepped over while canvassing on the days leading up to the election). I volunteered on the Jessica Salans campaign, who came in third earning 3,902 votes or 13.5%.

We spent $3.89 per vote.

At that rate we would have needed to raise about $66,000 to get the 17,000 votes Mitch won with (he raised $425k to achieve that result). Most of us however are confident we could win with much less.

The other movement candidate in that race, Sylvie Shain, came in second place and spent $7.90/vote.

To put this into perspective I’m gonna go to my old standby example: Jon Ossoff. You may remember him from the apocalyptic DNC fundraising emails a couple years ago. He tried to flip Georgia’s 6th Congressional district which represents a whopping 700,000 people. What’s particularly remarkable about his campaign isn’t the record setting $30 million he raised, but where it came from.

He received $456,296 in donations from California, TWICE what he received from within Georgia, with NINE times more individual donors from CA than from GA. Hindsight is 2020, but even when it just comes to races in Georgia, maybe that money would have been better spent elsewhere. Certainly we can find more winnable seats than ones where we’re spending $188 per vote with nothing to show for it.

There are so many people running for president right now with absolutely no chance of winning. They’ll blow millions of dollars raised from people all over the country who won’t even remember their names in 10 years¹. I think we do a decent job at Knock illustrating why local politics matter (especially in LA!). I’m not going to spend much time doing that now, please just read any of the other articles on our site. Just know that we are absolutely in need of radical local change. In LA “local” means policies that directly impact at least 4 million residents, and potentially up to 20 million (if counting the greater LA area), not to mention the impact we can have on cities the world over.

Loraine Lundquist is a pretty rad progressive running for city council right now. Please help us get her elected, and continue to organize with us to give her some allies in city hall come next year.

This guy knows you could affect a lot of positive change in Los Angeles with not a lot of money.

¹but if you can, please give a dollar to Mike Gravel to get him on the debate stage!