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Data lens: Calgary 2021 campaign expenditures down from 2017 for winning candidates

Campaign finance watchers eagerly awaited the March 1 deadline for candidates in the 2021 municipal election to file their returns.

Down were the absolute highs for municipal campaigns seen in the 2017 election.

Second place mayoral race finisher Jeromy Farkas pulled in the most amount of campaign dollars with $852,387. This was $63,901 short of the amount that second place finisher Bill Smith drew in 2017, with $916,288.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek raised $539,460 during this election. A similar amount to former Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who raised $529,315 before adding in his previous 2014 campaign surplus.

Jeff Davison, who came in third in the mayoral race, was able to raise $327,483. Fourth place finisher Brad Field did not file his campaign disclosure by the March 1 deadline.

Farkas also generated more individual donations over $50 than the Mayor. A total of 1480 individuals versus 767 for Gondek.

“We’re very grateful about the grassroots support from everyday Calgarians giving what they can,” said Farkas.

“Everybody rolled up their sleeves however they could they gave time, money, energy—obviously wasn’t the outcome that we’re looking for, but we put it all on the table we gave it absolutely the best that we could,” he said.

In terms of pure campaign efficiency per dollar spent, Gondek’s campaign nearly doubled that of Farkas at $3.59 spent per vote gained, versus $7.04. Davison was on par with Farkas with $7.10 per vote. Naheed Nenshi spent $3.46 per vote gained in 2017.

Ward winners had wide range of revenue, expenditures

Down considerably was campaign spending for the winners of the ward races.

Ward 2 councillor Jennifer Wyness spent a record low of $13,633. It was 13 per cent of the lowest spend of 2017. In that campaign, George Chahal expensed $107,277. All but one of the ward races that resulted in a winning campaign in 2021 came below that threshold.

Ward 9 councillor Gian-Carlo Carra came on the high end for expenditures with $201,344. This was $141,860 below what Joe Magliocca spent in 2017 as the highest spending campaign.

On a dollar per vote basis, Wyness spent $1.08, ranging to $28.54 for Carra. The median spend was $7.18.

Carra, who previously won close elections, told the media on Thursday that he felt like spending the dollars that he did was essential to victory.

"I knew it was going to be a extremely tight election. I can tell you in 2010, when I was first elected, I won by a margin of 495 votes, and that felt extremely close, and I felt like every single thing that we did, and every single cent that we spent was essential to clawing out that victory," he said.

"I'm just left with the feeling that every cent that was raised, and all the incredible effort that we put in and that my amazing corps volunteers put in, was time and money well spent."

Donors don't always translate into vote percentages

Among the ward candidates who won their election races, there was a wide range in the numbers of donors who contributed to those campaigns.

On the low end, both Wyness and Ward 5 councillor Rajdeep Dhaliwal had 33 disclosed donors over $50. And on the high end, Ward 8 councillor Courtney Walcott had 187.

Wyness recieved 48 per cent of her ward votes, and Dhaliwal, 28 per cent.

However, Ward 14 councillor Peter Demong, who had 47 disclosed donors, received 65.6 per cent of his ward race, compared to Walcott who had 31.5 per cent.