Money isn't everything in politics. But it's paying for all those colorful signs along Wichita's streets and piles of mail advertisements from City Council candidates who want your vote on March 1.
The fiercest advertising battle is in District 2 in east Wichita.
Candidates Om Chauhan, Steve Harris, Pete Meitzner, Paul Savage and Charlie Stevens spent a cumulative $45,640 strategizing and getting their names out, according to financial reports filed Tuesday.
The reports cover contributions and spending from Jan. 1 to Feb. 17, and Harris, chief executive of Galichia Heart Hospital, is easily leading the pack so far.
He poured $55,000 of his own money into his campaign and drew about $5,900 more in donations from others during the reporting period.
Harris also out-spent the competition in recent weeks. Harris' campaign spent $13,455 on billboards, signs, mailers and campaign management.
But Stevens, a real estate investor, wasn't far behind, with $11,773 worth of advertising, website development and mailers.
Aside from the loan Harris gave himself, Stevens out-raised Harris.
Stevens raised $21,950 during the reporting period, including maximum contributions from several members of his family. Among other prominent donors were developers George Farha, William Farha, Colby Sandlian and Stephen Clark, and realtor Nestor Weigand.
Harris, meanwhile, received $500 contributions (the maximum allowed) from several physicians.
Meitzner, managing partner of Meitzner and Associates and chairman of the Lord's Diner's advisory board, logged $18,377 in contributions, including maximum donations from family members, Wink Hartman and a $927 self-loan.
He spent $7,600.
Savage's report was not available Tuesday, but he said he mailed it to the elections office.
He said he loaned himself $10,500 and has spent $10,200.
He's not taking donations.
"Quite frankly, I don't want to owe any favors," he said. "If I win this thing, I don't owe anyone. I can sleep at night."
Chauhan, a property manager, is also going it alone. He loaned himself $10,000 and spent $2,612 on consulting, advertising and canvassing.
Candidates are required to report any contributions of $300 or more between Feb. 17 and the primary, but smaller contributions won't be reported until March 28.
In the primary, voters pick one candidate for each position on their ballot. The two candidates who get the most votes advance to the April 5 general election.
Hillman tops fundraising in District 3
In the race to replace Jim Skelton in southeast Wichita, Hoyt Hillman is leading in the amount of cash raised this reporting period with $5,150. That includes a $3,000 loan to himself.
He is second in expenses at $2,475 with most of that for printing yard signs.
A member of the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, Hillman also leads in cash on hand with $2,675.
James Clendenin is second in the amount raised with $3,850 and has spent $2,551, only slightly more than Hillman. He has $1,299 cash on hand.
Clendenin, who works with numerically controlled machines, has received the maximum contribution of $500 from developers Jack DeBoer, Jay Maxwell and Jay Russell as well as Rodney Steven II, president and owner of Genesis Health Clubs.
Mark Gietzen, a business owner and head of Kansas Coalition for Life, has raised, $1,995 and spent $1,688. Those expenses include a $250 fine paid to the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.
He was fined in September for not providing the required attribution of who paid for some campaign literature during his unsuccessful primary bid for state representative, said Carol Williams, the commission's executive director.
The commission allows candidates to use campaign funds to pay civil penalties or fines, she said.
Including $5 he brought into Jan. 1, Gietzen has a cash balance of $272.
Clinton Coen, a 19-year-old student, reported $650 in contributions, including a $550 check from himself. He came into Jan. 1 with $160. He has spent $763 on signs and buttons.
Spending high in District 4
The race in southwest Wichita to replace Paul Gray, who is not running because of term limits, is also fierce.
June Bailey and Joshua Blick are close in the amount of cash raised this period, but they have also combined to spend more than $16,000.
That leaves Michael O'Donnell with the most cash on hand with $4,401. But he's also only spent $249.
Bailey, former executive director of Community Housing Services, has raised $6,725 — only $225 more than Blick. She has contributions of $500 each from developers John Dugan, Jay Maxwell and John McKay. She also loaned herself $3,000.
Bailey has spent $5,780 to leave herself with $945 in cash on hand.
Blick, admissions director for Wichita Technical Institute, spent $10,865 to lead by a wide margin. He has raised $6,500 this reporting period, but he started Jan. 1 with $7,505. That leaves him with $3,140 in cash on hand.
Blick's $500 contributors include Key Construction co-founder David Wells, Wichita Mall developer Max Cole and Old Town developer David Burk.
O'Donnell, who does radio marketing and sales, has raised $4,650. Oilman Wink Hartman and real estate investor Johnny Stevens have each given him $500.
Two District 4 candidates, Donald McManamey and Donna Roberts, were not required to file financial reports because they signed affidavits that they would not raise or spend more than $500. Roberts is a homemaker and independent lobbyist on children safety issues, and McManamey works for Hawker Beechcraft.
District 5, which covers most of northwest Wichita, has no primary election because there are only two candidates.
Incumbent District 5 council member Jeff Longwell, who is also vice mayor, started the year with $32,571 already in his campaign account.
He had collected $17,601 more by Feb. 17. He spent $8,070 during that period, mostly on advertising.
Among donors giving maximum contributions were Key Construction executives David and Robyn Wells, developer Jay Russell and developer Nestor Weigand.
His only opponent, Lynda Tyler, a tea party organizer, raised $4,849 from Jan. 1 to Feb. 17.
She had several prominent donors, such as developers Johnny Stevens, Colby Sandlian and Jeff Bannon.
But her cash flow is a trickle compared to Longwell's.
Tyler spent $3,849 and enters the last week of the primary with about $1,000 compared to Longwell's $42,101.
Incumbent Mayor Carl Brewer raised $11,630 and spent $21,891 from Jan. 1 to Feb. 17.
He had $30,184 left.
It was clear that he would enter the primary with a massive financial advantage. Brewer had $40,466 in his campaign account at the start of 2011, including a $20,000 self-loan from 2007.
Only one of the five candidates challenging him plans to raise or spend more than $500.
Darrell Leffew, a construction company owner who ran for mayor in 2007, started the year empty-handed, but he loaned himself $837 by Feb. 17 and collected another $100 from developer Jeff Bannon. Two unnamed people gave him $10 each.
Leffew expected to trail Brewer by thousands, and he has said he plans only to raise enough to advertise his candidacy some.
Brewer's campaign got money from many of the same prominent supporters who helped him defeat Carlos Mayans in 2007.
Those include, Old Town developer David Burk, former council member Joan Cole and developer Jay Russell.
Brewer has said that money only goes so far in getting a message out and that he doesn't underestimate anyone.