Monday, September 06, 2021

What the network graph of campaign contributions tells us about the Olympia City Council races


Over the last few days, I've been pulling down Public Disclosure Commission data and putting together a network graph of financial contributions among city council candidates. This illustrates the flow of individual contributions to campaigns and between candidates. This shows, in a broad sense, of how candidates are connected by who is contributing to them. I took some care to clean up the data (so contributors aren't showing up more than once) but there might be some small errors.

 


1. There definitely are three primary lanes in the races. Or at least there was before the winnowing of candidates in the August Primary. I'd been using a shorthand to think about candidates running for city council. They were either in the right-hand side, mainline/incumbent or left-hand side lane.

Turns out the contributors thought the same thing. Contributions for all the right-hand side candidates (Mercer, Gauny, Kesler, Weigand and Carlson), mainline (Cooper, Gilman, Huynh, Parshley and Payne ) and left-hand (Wilkinson, Destasio, Reed and Brown) are generally distinct from each other. When there are connections, they are connected through the mainline group. There were a lot of contributors that gave to multiple candidates, but mainly to either the left or right and the mainline. Out of more than 1,200 individual contributors, there was only one that gave to both left and right.

2. The mainline group is much more cohesive than either the left or the right. This makes sense that the middle would be cohesive, most of them serve on the city council now. They're also contributing to each others' campaigns. But, the lack of cohesion between the other lanes, when there policy positions seem so well in sync, seems weird. 

This would also explain the mismatched results in the primary. No mainline candidates failed to advance, but only one from the left lane advanced and one from the right failed to advance.

3. Just poke around, see what you find. There are a lot of random things to see in the chart. 

  •  Port of Olympia candidates are spreading their money to candidates on the right and the mainline lanes.
  • There is a contributor that gave to both Payne and Weigand.
  • The "bridging" candidates that hold the most contributors that span lanes are Kesler (right to center) and Gilman (left to right). This shouldn't surprise me, but it is fun to see it illustrated.