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Nenshi campaign records a financial deficit after 2017 election

Naheed Nenshi celebrates his victory as Calgary's mayor following municipal elections in Calgary  late Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. .
Naheed Nenshi celebrates his victory as Calgary's mayor following municipal elections in Calgary late Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. . THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s election campaign finances are in the red following the 2017 campaign.

The mayor spent $688,705 during the campaign but was only able to raise $649,204, which included a huge surplus ($119,889) from previous campaigns.

Nenshi faces a deficit of nearly $40,000 but his campaign team is pointing to the number of donors.

“We had over 1,000 donors under $100, which we believe to be a record.

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“This campaign was always about the grassroots — about real Calgarians — not about the desires of big special interests,” Nenshi’s campaign manager Zain Velji said in a statement.

Bill Smith, who finished second in the mayor’s race, disclosed on Thursday he had raised $916,288 and after expenses, ended up with a surplus of nearly $80,000.

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Lori Williams, associate professor of political science at Mount Royal University, says the fact that Smith raised the amount of money he did in a short period of time shows his support was significant but it didn’t translate into enough votes.

“If it was a large number of wealthier corporate donors, that suggest the pockets were deep of a limited number of donors and that might have translated into less support broadly across the city.”

Williams agrees with the assessment from the Nenshi campaign team.

“The fact that he did as well as he did is a credit to his campaign and that might be attributable to the number of donors versus the depths of the pockets of individual donors,” she said.

“If he had more donors making smaller donations that would suggest a broader base of support than somebody with fewer donors who donated more individually.”

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Andre Chabot spent $250,735.31 on his mayoral campaign.

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When it comes to races for councillor, many of the incumbents raised and spent more than $200,000. In fact, councillor Joe Magliocca raised more than $343,000.

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Magliocca spent the entire amount, with his nearest rival Jennifer Wyness spending just under $6,000 for her campaign.

According to Williams, incumbents do have a major advantage in elections.

“The name recognition, the contacts, the connections, the community supports and so forth do give an incumbent a lot of advantages,” she said.

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“They also have the possibility of fundraising, they can get the maximum donation from every single donor every year they are in office so they can be collecting money for four years.”

Getting the best bang for the buck, it seems, were rookie councillors George Chahal and Jeff Davison. Chahal spent just under $107,000 and Davison spent $115,000.

Candidates for last October’s municipal election had until March 1 to file campaign finance documents. Information for all candidates will be up on the city of Calgary website on Monday.

Any surplus a candidate has after the campaign goes to the city to be held in trust to be used in a future campaign or if a candidate retires, the money can then be donated to charity or the city.