The Farmington City Council, pictured on April 9, will vote on the city’s first campaign finance ordinance Tuesday evening.
The Farmington City Council, pictured on April 9, will vote on the city's first campaign finance ordinance Tuesday evening. (Daily Times File Photo)

FARMINGTON — The Farmington City Council will vote on the city's first official campaign finance policy Tuesday evening.

Officials hope that imposing a $2,300 individual contribution limit and implementing a campaign finance reporting schedule will help reign in candidates' excessive spending on city elections. A final vote on the ordinance was tabled at the June 25 council meeting.

Mayor Tommy Roberts said the ordinance gives votes another way to evaluate candidates, allowing them to "see a candidate's philosophy in action."

"Voters have grown weary of excessive campaign spending," he said. "There are expectations that candidates will act reasonably when it comes to spending. I see a potential positive outcome."

The ordinance would require candidates to file a report on all money raised and spent by their campaign each October in non-election years. During election years, candidates would file reports in January, February and on the Thursday before Election Day.

The requirements could affect campaign contribution levels in the community, Roberts said. Some people, he said, may decide not to donate because they want to remain anonymous.

Roberts said he will continue to advocate for a lower contribution limit than $2,300.

"A cap of $250 would send a signal to the public that we take seriously the issue of excessive spending on campaigns," he said. "I think it's more about the message that campaign spending has gotten out of hand."

Councilor Mary Fischer said the ordinance is a good start, but that it may not spur enough change.

"It's a good first step," she said. "Especially now in the Fourth of July season, we should contemplate how disappointed our founding fathers would be that we've let our elections go to the highest bidder. It's very difficult for a newcomer to break through the glass ceiling. I really wish people wouldn't be spending ($40,000 or $50,000) on a local election, especially now that we have such a poor economy."

Campaign finance reform is only one step in improving local elections, Fischer said.

"Hardly anyone votes in local elections," she said. "We have got to somehow persuade them that local office holders hold some sway in their lives.

The work, it seems, is far from over, even if the council adopts the ordinance.

"It's long past due," Fischer said. "I'm glad we're doing it now, but it won't be a cure-all."

Greg Yee covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and Follow him @GYeeDT on Twitter.