Bob Ferguson, a King County Councilmember in Washington reflects on his first run for office, the money he needed to fund it, and the reason he supports a move towards full public financing of election in his county in this op-ed for the Seattle Times.
This year the Washington legislature passed a bill giving localities the option to move forward with full public financing programs, and legislation sponsored by Ferguson will get the ball rolling with a study on the feasibility of Voter-Owned Elections in King County (which includes Seattle and its suburbs).
Public campaign financing removes the undue influence of special interests. It also promotes competition for office. On the King County Council, it is rare to see a serious challenge to incumbents, and the fundraising disparity between challenger and incumbent is one of the primary reasons incumbents rarely face serious competition to retain their seats.
Raising money takes a tremendous amount of time. Public financing allows candidates to focus on what matters — engaging citizens on the issues, not dialing for dollars. It also opens up the electoral process to a wider range of citizens. Our current system is often a test of who can raise the most money rather than who has the best ideas.
Seattle's neighbors to the south in Portland, Oregon meanwhile are going into their second cycle of municipal elections with a Voter-Owned public financing option.