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Campaign spending caps increased

Candidates for Ashland elected offices will be able to spend a little more during the next election cycle without hitting voluntary caps on campaign spending.

On Tuesday night, the Ashland City Council made changes that lift the cap from $3,176 for a candidate to $3,498, with annual adjustments made for inflation.

The new formula multiplies the number of registered voters by 24.6 cents, said City Recorder Barbara Christensen, who is also the city's elections officer.

"I think it's a good starting point to think outside the box and find a better formula that's more in tune with elections and registered voters," she said.

The council stopped short of adopting a formula that would have allowed a candidate to spend 44 cents — or the cost of a stamp for a piece of regular mail — per registered voter in Ashland.

That would have raised the cap much higher, to $6,257 per candidate.

Former Ashland City Councilor Steve Hauck, who got the voluntary spending cap passed by the council in the mid-1990s, said raising the spending amount per registered voter to the price of a stamp would have been a reasonable reflection of the cost of reaching voters.

He said the amount of 24.6 cents per voter may not be realistic and may discourage candidates from signing on to the voluntary spending caps.

"I understand not wanting to have too high a limit, but one that is unrealistically low may lead to the continued ignoring or bypassing of the limit," Hauck said.

State law does not allow the city to have mandatory contribution and expenditure limits for campaigns, Christensen said.

A round of city of Ashland positions will be up for election in 2010.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.