Jacob Elder is running for mayor of Missoula. He has 5 campaign finance reports, going all the way back to July 2020.
In that first report, he’d raised $5,000. What’s interesting is that he actually hired Ward 3 candidate Daniel Carlino as an organizer, paying him $375. His largest expenditures were his website for $1,300, and that snappy campaign video he made, which cost $1,370. He also spent $500 for his logo design.
For the next report, he raised another $904. For his final report of 2020, he brought in another $474.
His next report went from December to March of this year, and he brought in almost $5,000. It’s clear from this report that one of Elder’s main strategies is social media outreach to young voters via Instagram. He paid the Bozeman company, Faultline Strategies, almost $500 to get 1,100 new followers on that social media network. He also spent $1,170 for 100 yard signs, and I’ve already seen a few of those around town.
Elder’s final report goes from March to June 15. He raised another $16,000, which is quite impressive. Since his campaign started, he’s brought in over $27,000. About $1,200 of that is a loan he made to himself. He’s spent about half of his funds, and currently has $13,000 in the bank. These last three months alone, he’s spent almost $8,000.
The vast majority of the people that donated to him over these past three months are unknown to me, and that’s not surprising. Very, very few want to publicly go against John Engen and his machine, and they know if they donate to Elder, someone like me could come along and out-them (as if anyone reads this site). But Elder does have a ton of support and lots of donors.
Most of Elder’s spending this period went to Missoula’s Optimize Consulting, $2,500 for social media work with Facebook, Instagram, Google, and Mailchimp. He did a lot of printing with Allegra, and spent a lot to do Facebook advertising on his own. I think he’s spending a lot of money on ads to both get his name out, and try to put more favorable results on the top of the page, not those sexual assault allegation stories.
Currently Shawn Knopp has not filed a campaign finance report, so we don’t know where he’s at, but I suspect it’s around where I am.
Elder has over 3,800 likes on his candidate Facebook page, and nearly 4,000 following that page.
As far as I can tell, Engen isn’t on Facebook, we know that Knopp hid/deleted his account before filing, and I got rid of mine in 2018. So really, just one candidate is focusing on social media, and that’s Elder, where he seems to be spending the majority of his time.
So far, it seems to be working. He gets lots of comments on his posts, and of course, he’s raised all that money.
But 3,800 likes on Facebook doesn’t mean you’ll win an election.
Remember, Engen won by these amounts in the past:
- 2009: 11,700 votes
- 2013: 11,360
- 2017: 12,700
- 2021: ?
In ‘09, Engen ran without a single opponent. Four years later, he had four opponents but no primary. Engen’s stiffest competition that year was Peggy Cain, who got 2,840 votes. In ‘17, it was Lisa Triepke, and she’s done better than anyone, taking 8,950 votes, putting her within 10% of Engen.
So somehow, Elder has to turn those 3,800 Facebook likes into around 11,000 votes if he wants to win. That’s going to take a lot of work.
Here’s how the race stands financially at this point:
- Engen: Raised $32,000 and spent $12,000, leaving him with $20,000 in the bank.
- Elder: Raised $27,000 and spent $14,000, leaving him with $13,000 in the bank.
- Knopp: $0
- Strandberg: Raised $0 and spent $950.37, leaving him with $-950.37 in the bank.
The city council voted to have a primary in September, with many thinking September 14 might be the date. The election is all mail, and this means ballots could go out as early as the first week of August.
That means candidates have around 50 days to campaign before people start voting, or 5 weeks.