Arnold’s aim: clean campaign 

Political candidates are known to turn down money from sources for personal or ethical reasons, but for one San Mateo candidate, that meant refusing a donation from her own mother.

"She’s a Burlingame resident," said Anne Arnold, who has declared that she will raise and spend less than $1,000 in her bid for one of two City Council seats that will become available this November. "I don’t feel comfortable taking money from people that live outside the city."

Arnold said she wants people to vote for her based on her opposition to traffic-increasing developments, poor long-term planning and favoritism toward campaign donors.

To that end, she is struggling to find donated space and services for her campaign.

Because she is unable to get donated server space for a Web site, she does not have an Internet campaign location. Unless she is able to locate free public space in which to hold forums and meetings, she will not be able to hold events.

"I’m a grass-roots candidate trying to meet people,and I’m not happy that people have to raise these inordinate amounts of money to hold office," Arnold said.

"It just makes me want to throw something. Why should it be about how much money a candidate raises?"

Guidelines for San Mateo candidates — put in place by the City Council in 2005 — put a limit on political contributions from individuals at $250 and from organizations at $500.

Three of Arnold’s four opponents have already raised at least $10,000 for their campaigns.

Councilmember John Lee is leading the pack with at least $22,338 in contributions, much of which he says will be spent on mailers and other high-profile attempts to meet voters and drum up interest.

"Direct mail is very expensive." Lee said. "Postage is expensive. But I feel that with five people running for two seats, its necessary to do whatever I can to get re-elected."

Although she says Lee’s funding levels are more than she would personally raise, former Planning Commissioner Bertha Sanchez — with a capital pool of more than $11,000 — said there is a certain amount necessary to operate a modern campaign.

"The name of the game for all of us is ‘name recognition’ and someone who has their name and face out there a lot will have an advantage," Sanchez said.

"It seems ludicrous to spend thousands of dollars on local politics for a small city like this," she said. "It’s not San Francisco, but the people that are working with me said you should try to raise at least $10,000."

jgoldman@examiner.com

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