Brian Cunningham is doubling down in his bid for District 40’s City Council seat. After switching to the Reform Party ticket to run against incumbent City Council Member Mathieu Eugene this November, Cunningham has already gathered $120,120 in public matching funds.
But Cunningham can expect little help from Pia Raymond, who came in third place in the recent four-person Democratic primary, in which all the candidates campaigned hard against Eugene, arguing he does little work in the district. Eugene does have a good record of attending city council meetings.
According to the Campaign Finance Board, Eugene has raised $103,991 in private funds, compared to Cunningham’s $52,755, but has received no public funding during the race. Cunningham’s campaign was initially slow to qualify for matching funds, only receiving public funding towards the very end of the primary season.
Cunningham cites preliminary issues with necessary documentation as the main reason for the delay, but adds that there has also been an increase in donations and support from the community, even after the results of the primary.
“It’s good to finally have the kind of resources we need to put together a really good operation and build up since the primaries,” said Cunningham. “Even the day after the primary, we continued to see an outpouring of love, from people continuing to donate to the campaign, so I think it shows that the community is really ready for a change.”
Meanwhile, Eugene expressed confidence in his track record and argued that he trusted his voter base to come through on November 7.
“Money doesn’t vote, the people vote,” said Eugene, arguing that his 10 years of experience as a council member made him the only viable candidate. “You cannot microwave a track record. I’m going to win again.”
One week after September 12th’s primary, which gave Eugene 5,414 votes, or 41.1% of the electorate, Cunningham, who received 30.3%, or 3,991 votes, announced that he would be running as a third party candidate, on the Reform Party ticket.
“We believe that those voters who voted 60 percent against the council member are going to come out in full support of our campaign, and we believe that independents who were left out of the process the first time are excited about the opportunity to vote,” said Cunningham. “Six out of 10 voters objected to the council member, and I don’t think they can go back that easily.”
Eugene, on the other hand, argued that Cunningham should respect the results of the primary, insisting that they showed that the choice had already been made. He said that running on a different ticket did not properly respect the voters who participated in the primary.
“Many of them after working for long hours, even though they’re tired, they go to vote because they respect the democratic process. I want to thank all of them, whether they voted for me or not,” said Eugene. “[Cunningham] didn’t respect the vote of the people. He didn’t respect the choice of the Democrats. He was a Democrat, he lost, and he flipped. What type of leadership is that?”
One important factor in the coming general election will be the ability of both candidates to bring voters who cast their ballots for alternate candidates, Jennifer Berkley and Pia Raymond, to their side.
“I hope that they will get on board, because we all campaigned because we thought that the council member wasn’t doing a good job at representing our interests, our concerns, our district,” said Cunningham, adding that he had reached out to both candidates after the primary. “And I hope that they still feel that way, I don’t think much has changed in the past few weeks.”
Eugene also said that he hoped to work with Raymond and Berkley in the future, and added that he had already met with both former candidates to congratulate them on their campaigns and discuss their hopes for the district.
“They showed respect for the voters, they showed respect for democratic values, they showed respect for our core values,” said Eugene. “They raised their issues with me, I respected their opinions and positions, and we realized that we can work together for the people.”
Raymond, who came in third with 2,956 votes, or 22.4%, said that she had congratulated Eugene on his victory, and that above all, the needs of the district were her top priority. She also stopped short of endorsing Cunningham.
“The people of the 40th District have spoken, clearly and unambiguously. I respect the voice of the people,” said Raymond. “I intend to remain focused on the issues and challenges that the district still faces, and will continue to face, unless there is a radical and drastic change of course and direction. For me, the diverse communities that make up the 40th District come first.”
Cunningham argued that until the general election in November, the race was not over. He reiterated that the results had been close enough to strongly imply that the community wanted a new city council Member, and expressed confidence in his campaign.
“I basically outlined what I believe are my core values, and the district’s core values, and what I felt was a better policy position on issues,” said Cunningham. “I’m hoping that now that the dust has settled and we have two candidates on the ballot, that they will look at my record, and the council member’s record, and my vision, in contrast to his.”