10/31/15

Ames Council Election Number-Crunching

With the help of Tabula, a great data-journalism tool that rips tables from PDF files into spreadsheets, I sorted through the latest campaign finance disclosure documents via the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board (for the Oct. 29 filing deadline) for the Ames City Council election next Tuesday. The reports cover activities 10 days before the election, or Oct. 24, and earlier. Scroll down to take a look at my visualizations of that data, or browse through the spreadsheet yourself here.

There are five candidates running but only four who filed disclosure forms. As with his previous campaign, Ward 2 council member Tim Gartin, who is running unopposed, apparently didn't raise enough to meet the filing threshold.

The hottest race is between Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen and Matt Converse, both local business people who have been active in the community for years and are vying for the at-large seat of veteran council member Matthew Goodman. Goodman has served on the council since 2004 and is stepping down at the end of the year. (Community volunteer Cindy Paschen, a third candidate who previously launched an ill-fated state Senate primary campaign against local Democrat Herman Quirmbach last year, dropped out of the race in early August.) Beatty-Hansen, the more liberal of the two candidates, has Goodman's blessing, while Converse has much of the Ames business and development community as well as former high school classmate Fred Hoiberg in his corner.

In Ward 4, Dan DeGeest, a software engineer at the Silicon Prairie Iowa State University Research Park company Workiva, is challenging incumbent Chris Nelson, a sixth-generation Amesian who serves as vice president of his Nelson Electric Co. family business, from the left. (Ames council elections are nonpartisan and typically have fairly low voter turnout, with national and local political leanings not always aligning.)

The top 11 overall donors have given exclusively to Converse and Nelson and include the Fareway Stores political action committee, which donated $1,000 to Converse and has a history of giving to Republicans representing Iowa in Congress. The No. 1 overall donor, local developer Dickson Jensen, also dropped a grand on Converse.

The next 14 top donors (mouse over the bars to display donor names) mostly break for Converse and Nelson, too, but also include Julie Popken, the wife of former council member Jim Popken; Quirmbach and his partner Leigh Tesfatsion; self-funder Beatty-Hansen; and Goodman and his wife Neysa. Another former council member, Jami Larson, gave a combined $350 to Converse and Nelson.


Overall donations in both contested races followed the top donor trends, with Beatty-Hansen and DeGeest the clear fundraising underdogs. (Converse also loaned himself $1,332.31, raising his campaign fund to $16,357.31.)

Here's a summary of how many unique donors each candidate has, counted by household and excluding unitemized contributions: Beatty-Hansen, 96 donors who gave an average of $62.43 apiece; Converse, 104 donors (including the Fareway Stores PAC and Cable R. E. Investments, which gave $100) averaging $142.55; DeGeest, 37 donors averaging $61.76; and Nelson, 33 donors averaging $121.67.

Not including unitemized reports, this chart counts every individual donation, including multiple donations from the same person or couple, across different giving ranges. Nelson reported no contributions under $25 (aside from seven unitemized ones ranging from $20-25). Beatty-Hansen's largest individual hauls were four $200 donations, including one from herself. DeGeest received a single $200 donation — his largest — from Julie Popken.

Most of the donors have been from Ames, with a small handful chipping in from elsewhere in Iowa or out of state. (Unitemized contributions were assumed to be Ames donations.)
Here's a map of individual donations by location to give you a sense of from where around town the money's coming. Click on the dots for more information about a specific contribution.

Council election contributions by location, 2015
Key: Yellow dots = $25 or under, Green dots = $26-50, Blue dots = $51-100; Pink dots = $101-200, Red dots = $201-1,000 


Here's a quick look at the money the four candidates have reported spending so far on the election. You can browse through a list of all expenditures on the spreadsheet.

As of Oct. 24, Converse and Nelson had the most cash on hand left over despite outspending their opponents. Converse's cash on hand includes his remaining fundraising haul and also $1,332.31 he loaned his campaign committee, so he's been working with a total of $16,357.31.