"The arms race for money that drives our campaigns threatens the concept of one person, one vote."
Chapel Hill Public Financing Bill Clears Both Chambers
PRESS RELEASE July 12, 2007
LEGISLATURE AUTHORIZES CHAPEL HILL TO INSTITUTE CAMPAIGN PUBLIC FINANCING FOR TOWN ELECTIONS
The town of Chapel Hill has become the first North Carolina municipality that is legally allowed to implement a campaign public financing program for its local elections.
Passing its final hurdle this afternoon in the Senate by a vote of 35-9, the bill authorizes Chapel Hill to institute a pilot campaign public financing program for its 2009 and 2011 municipal elections. The bill will be ratified and go into law after it is signed by the Speaker of the House Monday evening.
Under public financing, candidates could receive a public grant to run their campaigns, but only if they first collect a certain number of small, qualifying contributions and agree to strict spending and fundraising limits.
Campaign finance reform advocates argue that the program levels the playing field among candidates, reduces the role of special interest groups in elections, and gives candidates who do not have wealth but do have community support a meaningful way of running for office.
Chapel Hill town council member Mark Kleinschmidt welcomed the bill's passage as an opportunity for Chapel Hill to lead the state in making running for office accessible to all citizens with community support.
"Campaign public financing will allow our elected officials to better reflect the widespread diversity of ideas and people that exist in Chapel Hill." he said. "It will increase the accessibility of running for office for non-wealthy candidates, and allow us to avoid trends in other cities of moneyed special interests dominating local elections."
If implemented by the town of Chapel Hill the program would be allowed to run for two election cycles. The town would then need to report how many people participated, how much money was spent and other information to the state legislature.
Albuquerque, New Mexico and Portland, Oregon have similar local public financing programs. The Town of Cary initiated its own
program several years ago but it was stopped by a state court ruling because it had not received authorization from the state legislature.
North Carolina has had a campaign public financing program for its appellate judicial elections since 2002, and legislation is being considered this session that would expand that program to a limited number of Council of State races.