Campaigns are no longer for big spenders

By Charles Sercombe

Hamtramck’s City Council candidates have at least one thing in common, well, at least for the majority of them: They’re cheap.

All but three of the 13 candidates who ran for the Primary Election have filed a waiver with the Wayne County Election Division that said they don’t plan to receive or spend over $1,000.

That waiver exempts them from having to file campaign financial reports.

Candidates Cathie Gordon, who is the only incumbent seeking re-election, Steve Shaya and Roger Lamm did not seek a financial waiver.

So far, Shaya has emerged as the big gun, at least financially speaking. His campaign war chest started out with $3,590, according to his pre-Primary Election report that is filed with Wayne County.

Gordon started her campaign with $2,847.

It’s unknown at this point how much money Lamm came up with, because his financial report has not yet been filed. The report was due July 26.

Just where does the money come from for these candidates? In the case of Shaya, largely from himself. He donated $2,800 to his campaign, according to his financial report.

Gordon’s war chest was partially fueled by $1,374 that she and her family members donated.

For Shaya and Gordon, a portion of their campaign money came from fundraisers they held.

And just where does the money go? Largely for signs, voter lists from the city, office supplies, food, hall rental for their fundraisers, campaign workers and advertising.

At one time, campaigning in Hamtramck involved some big bucks, at least compared to now. But that was before the city adopted a new charter that shifted government control from the council and mayor to a city manager.

Prior to the new charter, councilmembers were paid $10,000 a year and also received health insurance coverage.

Now, besides having less control of the government, councilmembers receive about $3,000 a year with no benefits.

The person who started a frenzy of campaign spending was former Mayor Gary Zych, who in some election cycles collected up to $30,000. But Zych’s tenure was also beset with high legal bills to fight off court challenges and recall efforts.

Although 10 of the candidates received a waiver, there is suspicion that some of them aren’t being honest about the amount of money they spent. At least that’s what Councilmember Gordon thinks.

She said that, judging by the number of signs some candidates have, it’s hard to believe they are not spending upwards of $1,000. Plus, she said, it could be a case where candidates don’t understand that even if something is donated to the candidate, such as free hall rental or office space, it has a dollar value that must be reported.

“Maybe they don’t understand the rules of the game,” Gordon said.

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