Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) will ask the City Council Rules Committee Monday night to discuss his plan to use a slice of the city’s budget to fund future mayoral campaigns.

The plan is outlined in a 22-page draft ordinance that’s structured on the assumption the city would have both primary and runoff elections for mayor — something that voters chose to abolish when they adopted the ranked choice voting model last month.

The ordinance would require candidates to collect 100 initial donations from other people to qualify for matching funds.

They would then be entitled to receive from the taxpayers nine times whatever amount they were able to raise from private individuals.

Contributions to participating candidates would be limited to $150 per person per election. Matching fund payments would be capped at $45,000 per candidate per election.

Geracaris proposes funding the payments to candidates from a roughly $69,000 annual allocation from the city budget — a budget that is projected to total about $400 million in 2023.

That would be enough to fully fund six candidates in the no-primary, ranked-choice voting model, or three if both primary and runoff elections were held.

Participating candidates would be limited to $100,000 in total expenditures per election, and they and their spouses could contribute no more than $450 of their own money to a campaign.

Participating candidates would also be barred from accepting contributions from lobbyists, city contractors and developers of non-residential properties.

They would also be barred from coordinating with independent committees that either support them or oppose their opponents.

In the most recent two mayoral elections the winners spent more than $100,000 to get the job.

Campaign finance records show Mayor Daniel Biss spend nearly $107,000 in the period from July 2020 through June 2021.

And Mayor Steve Hagerty spend nearly $216,000 during the same period four years earlier.

Hagerty self-funded more than half his campaign expenditures, while Biss raised all of his campaign cash from others.

Biss dramatically exceeded the fundraising achievements of the two losing candidates in his race and Hagerty did the same.

Under Supreme Court free speech decisions, any candidate who chose to do so would be free to reject the taxpayer financing and seek to raise additional funds privately.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Haggerty is a fool. Guy spends $100K of his own money, doesn’t do what our residents wanted like firing Bobkiewicz, reinstating Kevin Brown, defunding the police, and keeping Clerk Reid as the sole FOIA official. Then he chooses not to run again after spending all his own money and that of his supporters. What a poor investment on his part for himself and the City.

    At least Biss used other peoples money and didn’t buy the election like Hagerty. Now we have better representation.

    I’m supportive of Geracaris proposal if it means we no longer have wealthy people with no elected experience buying elections.

    1. This would likely just gift us with more budget strain and more candidates that abuse this system. Meanwhile our schools are underperforming, we burn money on a flawed city manager process, downtown is dead of activity and our property taxes keep going up.
      Instead of money, just give them equal time in press and at events. Even more so, aren’t our Evanston residents smarter than just voting for the money??

      For once, I’d like to see our government with a single idea that doesn’t involve a financial tax on its residents that just hurts those not in the financial elite class.

  2. It seems like our Aldermen spend all day dreaming up ways to spend taxpayer money in any fashion other than on basic city services and maintenance or on existing obligations (such as underfunded pensions).

  3. I can see positives and negatives to this proposal. Certainly it would open the field for candidates with lower incomes or revenue sources. However, how much would it cost just to validate all the funds given (donor ID and actual amt), plus , esp with ranked voting, would there be too many candidates for voters to be able to make an informed decision. Would funds come from consortiums of people, all members of an advocacy group? Once again, we are asking for Evanstonians to fund yet another group of people. It would contribute to Evanston being known as a fee + tax community. Under the current system, it seems to be we have had very good mayors in a very tough job. Why not tax fund state senators and representatives..??

    1. Perhaps he could use some of those taxpayer matching funds to pay his rent.

      Or for an advertising campaign to make his dream of topless beaches of reality!

  4. I don’t make political contributions and I don’t want to be forced to through my tax bill. Evanston is looking less and less appealing every week.

  5. This is especially ridiculous given the fact that the Mayor job is largely ceremonial.

    They only vote to break a tie which is not often on a 9 member council.

    Not sure why Juan is pushing this Reid-style nothingburger in advance of a contested election when there are actual problems facing the city.

    Can’t believe there are many 9th ward voters clamoring for public financing of mayoral elections.

  6. I refuse to make political contributions, always have. You can’t force us.

    This has to be a lawsuit waiting to happen, right? Forcing residents to fund a political race? What if I am a Republican or Green Party or Libertarian and everyone in Evanston is Democrat, why does my money go to that party when I don’t support it?

    This is a ‘swiss cheese’ idea.

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