ESCONDIDO — Just months after the previously seated Escondido City Council enacted new campaign contribution limits, the city’s new council voted Wednesday, March 3, to set new campaign finance rules for city elections.
In October, the council voted 3-1 to reduce campaign contribution limits for the mayor, council members and city treasurer, and also approved a prohibition on candidates carrying over surplus campaign funds from one election to the next.
They also set new contribution limits on all political parties, businesses and labor unions.
After the November elections, the council’s previously liberal majority became a conservative majority as three of the seats were won by conservative-leaning candidates.
On March 3, the council voted 3-2 to get rid of the prohibition on candidates carrying over surplus campaign funds from one election to the next and to allow political parties to abide by the state contribution limit of $4,700.
Mayor Paul McNamara and Councilmember Consuelo Martinez were the two no votes.
The new council did, however, keep the previously enacted limit for district-only council seat campaigns at $1,000, as well as the $1,750 limit for city-wide races for mayor and city treasurer.
According to a report from City Attorney Michael McGuinness for the council meeting, state law does not specifically address the issue of rolling over surplus campaign funds from one campaign to the next.
The council received several public comments on the issue, all in favor of keeping the rules that were adopted in October.
“The proposed removal of the current requirements for dispersal of surplus campaign funds after the 2020 election creates an unfair disadvantage for new candidates who don’t benefit from prior corporate or vested interest support,” said the Escondido Chamber of Citizens. “The proposed removal of this restriction creates an exclusive advantage only to incumbents that is disproportionate and unfair to new candidates competing in future elections.”
Martinez, who proposed the ordinance regarding rolling over campaign funds back in October, said the reason for this rule is fairness.
“My proposal of not carrying over campaign funds is about a level playing field for all, regardless of your ideology, regardless of your platform. It is to be fair… and what is being proposed tonight is anything but fair,” Martinez said.
Councilmember Mike Morasco, who voted yes on the proposal, said that the previous rule was politically motivated and based on individuals’ wants and desires.
“A level playing field means that everyone plays by the same rules. … It has always been a fair and level playing field, and so this notion that it’s somehow not because of an overreaching decision made by council a couple of months ago doesn’t change the fact that things have been fair,” Morasco said.
He added that Escondido is the only entity or jurisdiction in the state that has this ordinance in place.
McNamara delivered the State of the City address and reviewed how Escondido has faced the challenges of 2020.
The council also held a workshop in which the city’s strategies to remedy homelessness were reviewed.