The City Council’s Rules Committee voted 6-1 Monday night to advance a public financing scheme for mayoral elections to the full City Council.
The campaign finance proposal, developed by Reform for Illinois and sponsored by Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th), moved forward on a 6-1 vote despite concerns raised by Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) that it needed revisions first.
A motion to table it until a Rules Committee meeting at a to-be-determined date in September failed on a 3-4 vote in part because of concerns that if the proposal, first discussed last winter, did not advance now it might create difficulty including funding for it in the 2024 city budget.
To participate in the program, a candidate would have to receive at least 100 initial qualifying contributions of between $5 and $50.
The candidate would also have to limit all contributions accepted during the campaign to no more than $150 per person or other entity.
Having done that, the candidate would get a match of $9 from the city for every $1 in contributions the candidate receives.
An Evanston Now analysis of the impact of the taxpayer funding proposal suggests that in a 2025 re-run of the last mayoral race the effect of the ordinance would be to slightly reduce the funds available to the 2021 winner, Daniel Biss, while dramatically increasing funds available to the two losing candidates, Lori Keenan and Sebastian Nalls.
The proposed ordinance calls for allocating roughly $100,000 per year — given the current size of the city budget — to the mayoral campaign subsidy program, plus $50,000 per election cycle to the city clerk’s office to run the program.
Candidates who wanted to skip the public financing option would be free to raise private contributions in excess of the program limits.
Efforts by Ald. Devon Reid (8th) to modify the proposal were unsuccessful.
He suggested letting only contributions from lower-income residents qualify for the matching funds, but Reform for Illinois representatives at the meeting said that would almost certainly be unconstitutional and his proposal failed for lack of a second.
He then proposed expanding the program to provide matching funds for aldermanic candidates in the 2nd and 5th wards and his 8th ward — the lowest income wards in the city.
But that proposal as well failed for lack of a second.