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Local candidates spend thousands on campaigns

An Ashland political action committee and three moderate City Council candidates it supports have raised a total of $12,360, while three liberal candidates opposed by the PAC together have raised $12,059, according to state election filings and candidate estimates.

The PAC, Ashland Residents for a Great City Council, has received $6,095 and spent $5,971, according to the latest available filings with the Oregon Secretary of State Elections Division.

The PAC's largest contribution — $1,000 — came from Sid DeBoer, the founder and executive chairman of Lithia Motors and brother of Alan DeBoer, former Ashland mayor who is challenging Mayor John Stromberg in the Nov. 6 election.

The PAC has not endorsed a candidate for the mayoral race.

Other individuals and businesses contributing to the PAC include Darrell A. Boldt, Adroit Construction, Gold and Gems, Linda and Chuck Butler and Coming Attractions Theaters.

Not all candidates have filed paperwork with the state. Some expected to stay under a state reporting threshold of $3,000.

The PAC has endorsed incumbent Councilman Greg Lemhouse and council candidates Jackie Agee and Rich Rosenthal.

The PAC has paid for ads and mailers opposing incumbent Councilwoman Carol Voisin and candidates Regina Ayars and Keith Haxton.

Of the individual candidates, Ayars has raised the most money at $5,985. She has spent $3,461, according to the latest filings.

Her biggest contributor, at $500, was Herbert Rothschild Jr. She also loaned her campaign $2,030.

Ayars did not agree to abide by Ashland's voluntary campaign spending limit of $3,352 this year.

She said she thought she would have to run against an incumbent, but then Councilman Russ Silbiger decided not to seek re-election, leaving her to compete with Rosenthal.

Ayars said she has had to spend more than Rosenthal because "I don't have a PAC supporting me. It puts Rich (Rosenthal) in an advantageous position because a PAC is running ads for him."

Ayars said her spending is also on the high side because she made a commitment to buy campaign materials such as lawn signs from Ashland vendors.

Rosenthal reported contributions of $2,885 and expenditures of $1,539.

Rosenthal said Ayars spent a lot of money on her campaign even before the PAC ads and mailers appeared against her.

"I've been able to run a robust citywide campaign for less than $2,000," Rosenthal said. "This is the type of efficiency and fiscal discipline that stewards of taxpayer funds should exhibit when running for City Council. Spending in excess of the voluntary limit gives me the impression that the particular candidate is simply looking to buy his or her way onto the council."

Lemhouse said he has raised about $1,050 and said he expects to spend that amount or close to it. He has spoken out against the PAC's targeting of Voisin, Ayars and Haxton.

Haxton, who is seeking to unseat Lemhouse, has reported contributions of $3,174 and expenditures of $2,719.

Bruce Harrell is also running against Lemhouse and Haxton but has not been targeted by the PAC.

Harrell said he has had no contributions and has spent $750.

"If I'm elected, it will be based on my stance on the issues and not popularity, signs and endorsements," said Harrell, who ran for City Council unsuccessfully in 2010 on a tiny campaign budget.

Incumbent Carol Voisin reported contributions of $2,900 and expenditures of $1,499. Challenger Jackie Agee said she has taken in $2,330 and spent $2,323.

For the mayoral race, incumbent Mayor John Stromberg agreed to Ashland's voluntary campaign spending limit of $3,352 but said he is going to exceed that with expenditures of about $4,300.

Stromberg said he has contributions of $3,000.

There is no punishment for exceeding the voluntary spending limit, although the city of Ashland will publish a notice about candidates who do so.

Stromberg said he had planned to stay under the voluntary cap, but then saw that challenger Alan DeBoer had recently sent out a campaign mailer to Ashland households.

"I felt like I had to respond to that," Stromberg said, adding that he thinks direct mailers are the most powerful way to reach voters.

Stromberg said sending out his own direct mailer cost more than $2,000. He said he paid for it himself and will need to do additional fundraising to recoup the cost.

Stromberg said he also felt compelled to send the mailer because an ad ran in the Sneak Preview alternative paper attacking him for his support of a "road diet" that has reduced car lanes on North Main Street as it comes into town.

Bill Heimann, founder of the Ashland Residents for a Great City Council, said the PAC did not run the road diet attack ad.

Heimann, a bicycle safety instructor, favors the road diet, which has been criticized by some residents, especially those living on neighborhood streets that feed into North Main.

Alan DeBoer said he has received contributions of $2,950 and is now returning checks from new donors to stay at that level.

"I will be close to spending that amount but it will be less than that," he said.

The third mayoral candidate, Keith "Biome" Michael Erickson, said he has received contributions of $6.70 and spent $720.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.