Mayor candidates set record for campaign donations in intense Basalt race
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The two candidates in the Basalt mayor’s race broke a record for campaign contributions with three weeks to go before the election, according to a town official.
Incumbent Mayor Jacque Whitsitt raised $8,182.19 during the first reporting period, which ended March 10. More than half of her contributions came from a $5,000 donation from Jim Newsome, who has a Basalt post office box and was listed on the campaign finance report as retired. Whitsitt said she met Newsome during discussions about the future of the Pan and Fork site, where the town is debating a mix of development and park.
“Jim has been a passionate supporter of a river park since this process started,” she said. Newsome is trying to support his vision for the site by getting her elected, she added.
Basalt doesn’t cap campaign contributions.
Whitsitt’s donor list was dominated by Basalt area residents who have spoken in support of keeping as much of the Pan and Fork as a riverside park as possible.
Rick Stevens, a current councilman who is challenging Whitsitt, reaped $6,244 in contributions through the first reporting period. His biggest contribution was $1,000 from Howard Cohen, who was listed with a Basalt address and employment as a “broker” on Steven’s campaign finance report. Cohen is a financial consultant who has advised Basalt in the past on open space purchases, Stevens said.
Stevens returned two contributions of $2,000 each, according to his report. One contribution was made by Wind River Trees/Ace Lane, the landowner who has applied to build the Tree Farm project in El Jebel. The other $2,000 contribution was from Jack Pease of Boulder.
Stevens said he didn’t solicit the donations. He initially put them in his campaign bank account, then thought about the donations and decided he didn’t want them. He notified the donors and returned their money. He identified the contributions in his campaign finance report on an official form titled “Returned Contributions.”
People who have lobbied for development on the Pan and Fork site and a limited park dominated Steven’s donor list.
The mayoral candidates collected a combined $14,426.19 during the first reporting period. Town Clerk Pam Schilling said that is more than has been collected in a campaign in the nearly 24 years she has been at the town. Whitsitt spent about $3,000 in her 2012 race for mayor. Her opponent spent $78, according to their reporter just prior to the election.
The Pan and Fork debate has put some extra zing in this year’s campaign. Whitsitt said she felt extra fundraising was necessary.
“It’s about the level of public interest in the election,” she said. Whitsitt said she feels that a group formed to weigh in on the races, OneBasalt, worded a direct mail piece to oppose her without specifically endorsing a candidate, which would have triggered it to register as committee or disclose its finances.
Several of the organizers of the OneBasalt group have written letters to local newspapers in support of Stevens. In addition, OneBasalt organizers Stacey Craft, Larry Yaw, Donna Rossetti, Steve Chase and Michael Latousek contributed to Steven’s campaign. The Three Bears Building, a company owned by OneBasalt organizers Norm and Laura Clasen, also contributed to Steven’s campaign.
Craft said OneBasalt isn’t working for Stevens.
“OneBasalt has been clear about our focus: encouraging voters to educate themselves on the facts about town planning. It is a complex issue, involving town finances, community vitality and environmental concerns,” Craft wrote in an email.
She noted that the group’s website, OneBasalt.org, has links to every candidates’ information, pulled from the Town of Basalt’s site, and the candidate videos that the Chamber of Commerce provided.
Stevens said he spent only $28 on his 2012 campaign as a councilman but felt he had to raise more for the mayor’s race this year “just to be competitive and match up.”
The fundraising isn’t nearly as intense among the six candidates vying for three council seats. Leroy Duroux didn’t accept contributions. He sole expenditure was $3.82. Spending on items less than $20 don’t have to be itemized.
Herschel Ross didn’t accept contributions. His only expenditure was $21 with the Oriental Trading Co. for bandanas.
Rob Leavitt didn’t accept contribution and spent $130.45 of his own funds.
Jennifer Riffle collected $1,594 in contributions. Her donors included both mayoral candidates.
Katie Schwoerer collected $330 in contributions.
Auden Schendler was the only candidate who didn’t file his campaign finance report by the 5 p.m. deadline Tuesday. When reached by The Aspen Times, he said he interpreted the candidate packet information from the town to mean that no report was necessary if there were no contributions collected or money spent. He said he would clarify the requirement with Schilling.
Following is the list of contributors for each candidate based on information from their campaign finance reports. All contributors are from Basalt unless otherwise noted.
Contributors to Jacque Whitsitt:
Doug MacDonald, $500; Anne Freedman, Titon Falls, New Jersey, two contributions for $250 each; Brian Levengood, Cheyenne, Wyoming, $100; Royal Laybourn, $200; Patrice Becker, $50; Roger Adams, $150; George Frank, $50; Brenda Stern, $50; Mark Harvey, $50; Ken Ransford, $250; Mark Kwiecienski, $100; Rachel Richards, Aspen, $75; Andy Wiessner, Snowmass, $50; Sue Mozian, $100; Bob Young, Glenwood Springs, $200; Jennifer Riffle, $50; Gerald Terwilliger, $200; Lynn Nichols, $100; Patrick Hunter, Carbondale, $50; Cathy Click, $250; Jonathan and Lisa Lowsky, $25; Jim Newsome, $5,000; and Debra Smith, $75.
Contributors to Rick Stevens:
Three Bears Building, $300; Stacey Craft, $236; Ted Borchelt, $200; Stan Gertzbein, $200; Gayle Waterman, $250; Andrew Hollenbach, $200; Howard Cohen, $1,000; Tracy Bennett, $139; John McMahon, $250; Donna Rossetti, $250; John “Larry” Yaw, $250; Cil Klamper, $250; Steve Chase, $239; Chris Henderson, Glenwood Springs, $230; and Michael Latousek, $250.
Contributors to Jennifer Riffle:
Doug MacDonald, $300; Jacque Whitsitt, $250; Larry and Kathy Perko, Flagstaff, Arizona, no amount listed; Anna Edgerly, $74; Lee Reed, Carbondale, $25; Susan and George Fesus, Aspen, $100; Rick Stevens, $200; Lissa Bollinger, $40; Janet and Jim Riffle, Aguila, Arizona, $75; Erik Skarvan, Aspen, $25; Mark Harvey, $50; Mark Kwiecienski, $100; Nick Ketpura, Carbondale, $50; Danon Lircosta, $25; and Jon Fox-Rubin, $80.
Contributors to Katie Schwoerer:
Jessica Jay, $200; Jon Fox-Rubin, $80; and Jennifer Riffle, $50.
Candidates Leroy Duroux, Rob Leavitt and Herschel Ross didn’t collect campaign contributions, according to their reports. Auden Schendler didn’t file a report by the 5 p.m. deadline Tuesday due to a misinterpretation of rules. He said he didn’t accept contributions.
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