The first woman competing in a Los Angeles mayoral runoff in the city’s history has been unable to make significant inroads with female campaign contributors, an analysis of city campaign finance data shows.
City Controller Wendy Greuel’s quest to become the first female mayor in the nation’s second-largest city has become a pillar of her campaign. But it hasn’t translated into an influx of cash from women.
Greuel has a slight overall edge among female campaign contributors compared with her opponent, City Councilman Eric Garcetti. In total contributions for the primary and the runoff, she has raised $1.45 million from women compared with Garcetti’s $1.4 million, according to campaign finance records through May 4.
Men historically have given more campaign contributions than women, data dating back to 2001 shows. And this election is no different. Although there are more female donors to mayoral candidates, they’re contributing less, on average, than men. During the current campaign, men have contributed 58 percent more cash than women.
Since the March 5 primary, Greuel has filled her social media pages with news and testimonials from women supporting her candidacy. Her YouTube account includes a video posted in April announcing her endorsement from women’s equality activist Lilly Ledbetter with a promise from Greuel to fight for “equal pay for equal work.”
Her Facebook account’s cover photo emphasizes her EMILY’s List endorsement, and she has posted photo albums celebrating her endorsements from U.S. Reps. Maxine Waters and Nancy Pelosi, both California Democrats. On April 30, Greuel hosted a public group video chat with more than 1,200 Los Angeles women.
“There’s so much at stake in this next mayor’s race and so many important things that we need to talk about that are important to women to lead Los Angeles forward,” Greuel said.
Past mayoral candidates have used their race and ethnicity to appeal to voters. Antonio Villaraigosa rode to the mayor’s office with 84 percent of the Latino vote in 2005, according to a Los Angeles Times exit poll. But Greuel has found it more difficult to rally women as campaign contributors.
Campaign records do not have a box to check for gender, but a University of Southern California honors class in data journalism reviewed Los Angeles mayoral campaign contributions dating back to 2001 and identified individual contributions made by men and women.
For the 2013 campaign through May 4, the USC class accounted for 14,272 primary and runoff contributors with a Los Angeles ZIP code. About 5 percent of the contributors weren’t categorized because the gender was unclear. The breakdown did not take into account contributions from individuals living outside the city limits, nor did it include independent expenditure committees.
The 4,065 female contributors to this year’s mayoral primary campaigns accounted for 40 percent of all contributors, up from 34 percent in 2001. There were 6,031 male contributors in this year’s primary, a slight drop from 2001.
With days to go before the election, the total number of female contributors to the Greuel and Garcetti runoff campaigns already is 13 percent higher than it was in 2001.
Despite a slight overall edge for Greuel in campaign contributions from women, Garcetti has 56 percent of the female contributors in this year’s runoff campaign and 51 percent of women’s runoff money.
Campaign donors like Adriana Balaban, 57, say gender doesn’t play a role in the decision to back a candidate. Balaban has donated $1,000 to Greuel’s campaign.
“If you’re talking about the 1970s and women’s lib and everything that was going on in the time and history, gender might have been a factor then,” Balaban said.
Garcetti, too, has made a strong push to appeal to women. He has appointed more women than men to city commissioner posts, and his campaign has emphasized the central role women play in his City Council office.
“Our campaign is proud of (its) strong female voices,” said Deputy Chief of Staff Yusef Robb.
Garcetti also has picked up the endorsement of the California chapter of the National Organization for Women.
Francine Busby is the executive director of Run Women Run, a nonprofit that aims to recruit, train, mentor and elect pro-choice women to public office and reduce the gender gap for women at all levels of representative government. She said men are conditioned to give political contributions.
“Men are used to giving, used to being asked for contributions,” Busby said. “Women are like nonprofits, where very few are asked to be major donors.”
This story was written and reported by undergraduate honors students at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Eric Burse, Paresh Dave, Kastalia Medrano and Stephen Zelezny provided additional reporting. The class was under the direction of Dana Chinn.