Post #281: Campaign finances and the Providence District Democratic primary candidates

As I discussed in this post, the W&OD railroad made Maple Avenue the choke point for a lot of Tyson’s traffic.  The black line below shows the nearly 5 mile stretch where the only road of any consequence that crosses the old W&OD roadbed is Maple Avenue.  This acts like a fence between Tyson’s and areas to the west.   If you live west of Vienna, and want to get to Tyson’s without using I-66, chances are that you will take Route 123 through Vienna.

What happens in Tyson’s doesn’t stay in Tyson’s — it drives through Vienna first.  Tyson’s is in the Providence District.  And so, while we can’t vote for Board of Supervisor candidates in that District, we have more than a spectator’s interest in that race.

In this post, I’m going to take a look at the campaign finances of the Board of Supervisors candidates from the Providence District.  Refer back to my just-prior post to see a similar analysis for our own Hunter Mill District candidates.  The data shown below are all taken from the Virginia Public Access Project, and are based on reports that candidate PACs must file with the Commonwealth under the CFDA.  Everything I summarize below, you can see by clicking the link above and then clicking the links on that page.  All figures are as of the last reporting data required by the Virginia Campaign Finance Disclosure Act (CDFA), March 31 2019. 

How much money?

Collectively, the Providence District candidates have raised about twice as much money as the Hunter Mill district candidates.  Further, the totals are much closer among the candidates — there is no one candidate with vastly more funds than any other.

The next question I was going to ask was:  In what amounts?  Which candidates received mostly large donations, and which received small donations.  But as it turns out, I can’t easily ask that here, due to one of the quirks of the CFDA and political action committees (PACs).

Once you put money into a PAC — in this case, the PACs for the candidates — you have to use it for a political purpose (or refund the money to the donor, which rarely occurs).  And so, say you decided to retire from the Board of Supervisors, but still had quite a bit of money left over from your last campaign.  Realistically, your sole option with “left-over” campaign money is to donate that money to another political campaign. 

That’s a frequent occurrence, and that’s what has happened in this race.   But those can show up as single very large donation.  When, in fact, the original contributions to the original campaign fund may have been of all sizes.

So I’m going to skip the step of trying to identify candidates with primarily large versus primarily small donations, and just look in detail at each candidates main sources of funds.

Candidate Hoang’s raised the least, about $15,000.  Almost half the amount showing is “in-kind” contributions, primarily the value assigned to setting up and running his website.  Almost another $2,000 was money that Hoang loaned to his campaign.  He has a single $1000 contribution from a realtor.  Less than 10% of his funding is from contributions of $100 or less.

Candidate Kelleher is about two-thirds self-funded, with a few significant donations from the building and real estate industries.  Of her roughly $33,000, she loaned her campaign $20,000.  About 10% of her funding is from individuals in real estate and construction, including a $1000 contribution from the NoVA Building Industry Association.  About 20% of her funding is from contributions of $100 or less.

Candidate Niedzielski-Eichner is about half self-funded, and about half funded by left-over campaign funds from Linda Smyth, the retiring Board member from this district.  No individual contributions appeared to be from the real estate or building industries.  About 3% of his funding is from donations of $100 or less.  (Caveat:  This counts the left-over Linda Smyth campaign funds as one large donation.)

Candidate Palchik’s funding comes primarily from left-over campaign funds from her prior school board campaigns.  More than two-thirds of her funds were from that source.  She has a single $500 contribution from the NoVA Building Industry Association.  About 10% of her funding is from contributions of $100 or less.  (Caveat:  This counts the left-over school board campaign funds as one large donation.)

Candidate Yalowitz’ campaign is roughly one-third funded by herself and (what I assume to be) her relatives.  About 10% of her funding is from the real estate and construction industry, but that’s mostly due to a $3500 contribution from Tim Chapman, candidate for Chair of the Board of Supervisors.  About 20% of her funding is from contributions of $100 or less.

Conclusions

From the narrow lens of wanting slower development, and looking only at campaign finances, I’m not sure that I see any obvious candidate with a goal of slowing growth in the Providence District.

Candidate Hoang appears too under-funded to be a competitive candidate in this race.

I believe I could eliminate Candidate Niedzielski-Eichner based on his receipt of the Lynda Smyth’s left-over campaign funds.  Presumably he has been chosen to succeed Smyth, whom Wikipedia describes as having defeated challenges from slow-growth candidates.  My assumption is that he is the candidate of the status quo in this election.

Similarly, Edythe Kelleher was instrumental in bring MAC zoning to Vienna, then moved to the Providence district.   That, along with a $1000 contribution from the NoVA Building Industry Association, suggests that she will likely not be a strong advocate for slowing growth in Providence district.

Tim Chapman’s apparent endorsement of Candidate Yalowitz is at least a yellow flag for me, from the standpoint of development.  Chapman is, in fact, a developer, abeit one with some focus on affordable housing.  With that kind of backing, that again that she too will probably not be a strong advocate for slowing growth in Providence district.

Finally, Candidate Palchik is a cypher, with most of her money coming from a completely different race (school board).  The single $500 contribution from the NoVA Building Industry Association suggests that she is acceptable to them as a candidate.  Again, not an obvious advocate for slowing the rate of development in Providence District.