How Much for a Name?

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Christopher Moylan, a city councilman from Sunnyvale California writes this op-ed in the San Jose Mercury News encouraging a public financing option for municipal campaigns to encourage a more diverse field of candidates and surmount the cost barrier to running for office.

Moylan notes the high cost of generating name recognition in California races -- a necessity he ties to the term limit rules in the state. Because candidates with the highest name recognition have a better chance at winning office, he claims the current system favors the more well-known, rather than the most qualified candidates:

As the costs of campaigning have increased, fewer candidates have come forward. That's a problem for everyone. Every time a citizen who would have done a good job chooses not to run, the quality of local government suffers. Because the primary function of local government is to make sure that cities are well-run, part of the cost of doing business should include ensuring that there is an adequate number of candidates on the ballot every time. The way to accomplish that goal is through public financing of campaigns.

Efforts to create a public financing program in Sunnyvale this year were not successful, but there are efforts afoot in Los Angeles to win a full public financing program in the Clean Elections model for citywide elections.