StudCo president candidates said their campaigns are self-funded
Original: The Cavalier Daily February 20, 2017
According to an interim expenditure report released by the University Board of Elections, the current total projected campaign expenses for student elections is approximately $6,800, a number which more than doubles last year’s total of nearly $3,000. The majority of candidates listed projected expenses between $25 and $75.
Candidates were required to fill out the interim report, which was conducted by way of a seven question Google form, by Feb. 13. The report only projects expenses. It does not give the actual verified sum of money spent on the campaign nor does it require candidates to state where the funding is coming from.
“The only thing we can do in that first one is basically ask them to on their honor using their best judgment to project their expenses — give us a rough estimate of what they’re going to be able to spend,” Casey Schmidt, UBE chair and a third-year College student, said.
There seemed to be confusion over how to fill the form out. For example, several students listed an itemized expense with a monetary value such as $30 for fliers, but then put a total projected expense of $0.
Some students chose to list the same costs for both the “list of expenses” category and the “projected expense total category,” while others gave a higher projected expense total than the itemized number they gave in the “list of expenses” category.
The numbers are also likely to change as both candidates for Student Council president — third-year College student Sarah Kenny and third-year Batten student Kelsey Kilgore — have said they expect their spending to be different than what they had originally projected, making the costs on the interim expenditure report somewhat arbitrary.
Kenny listed her itemized projected campaign costs as fliers, a whiteboard and markers and Facebook post boosts.
Kenny said the projected total expense of $200 she listed on the form is no longer accurate because she will be spending more money to compete with her opponent, Kilgore. She also said she didn’t think UBE made it clear to her how the interim report was supposed to be filled out.
“I am going to be spending more than that on flyers and handbills,” Kenny said. “I did not expect to be competing with an opponent who is buying food and t-shirts and Red Bull and other things for the people she’s hoping to get to vote for her.”
Kenny also said she took issue with the rising campaign costs and has worked in the past to reduce spending on student government elections, though with limited results, since the University is not allowed to officially cap spending.
“I think it is horrifically unfair and an exclusionary process to a lot of students because of how much it costs to compete,” Kenny said. “I really hope that our University can do something to address this because it is not fair if we’re looking for representation from all students being able to run.”
On the other hand, Kilgore said in an email to The Cavalier Daily that the $2,490 she put as her projected total expense was an overestimation of the money she will actually be spending on her campaign.
Kilgore included t-shirts, Red Bull, coffee, stickers, fliers, food, buttons and yard signs in her itemized list of projected expenses.
“To date, we have spent less than previously anticipated as far as my expenditure report details,” Kilgore said. “I would estimate it is nearing $1,500 … I overestimated the cost of production of certain materials and food just to be safe in my budget planning because I would have rather sent in a number that was over the actual spending number because I knew that it would be hard for an outsider to run a campaign and win.”
Both candidates for Student Council president said they are funding their campaigns by themselves.
“The campaign is being funded by myself, Kelsey Kilgore. Of course, I have the support of my parents who contribute here and there, like cases of water and some of the food,” Kilgore said. “I grew up in the political world as my father has served roles in Virginia politics, and certainly understand what it takes to run an effective campaign.”
Jerry Kilgore, Kelsey’s father, served as Virginia Attorney General from 2002 to 2005 and was the Republican nominee for governor in 2005. Although Kilgore was defeated in the 2005 gubernatorial race by Sen. Tim Kaine, he has remained active in state politics and is currently the finance chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.
Several students approached The Cavalier Daily alleging a connection between her and the conservative nonprofit organization Turning Point USA, which works to promote grassroots activism and describes itself as working to “organize, train, and equip student leaders on college campuses in all 50 states.” Kilgore, however, denied receiving monetary funds from the organization.
“While I have attended a Turning Point USA event in the past, and have attended a U.Va. chapter Turning Point USA meeting here on Grounds, and had asked friends who are members of the organization to help volunteer on the campaign, I have not received monetary support from the national Turning Point USA organization,” Kilgore said. “I am lucky enough to have the resources to responsibly execute my campaign.”
Likewise, Kenny too denied receiving funds from any organizations, endorsing or otherwise. She also said she funded her joint campaign with Abraham Axler last year by herself.
“I am paying for everything myself,” she said.
After running a stressful campaign last year, Kenny said she advocated for a shorter campaigning period, which was meant to lower the cost of running and improve mental health for candidates.
“Last year the period of campaigning and voting was several days longer than it is this year,” Kenny said. “I advocated for shortening that window down to what it is now, which is just a week.”
The shorter voting window was one of numerous changes implemented by UBE this year.
Schmidt explained that since the University is a public school, it must be careful in restricting campaign finance, since campaign donations can be considered a form of free speech.
“We’re operating within the legal parameters of restricting people’s ability to donate to campaigns and spend money on political campaigns,” Schmidt said. “I think if something was to be looked at with this sort of thing it would definitely involve [the University’s] general counsel and the legal team because as you know issues of speech and campaign finance can be touchy issues.”
A final expenditure report will be due for candidates Feb. 24 at 10 a.m., and Schmidt said he estimates UBE will be able to publicly release the results later that day.