The Half Moon Bay City Council approved a first reading of an ordinance lowering campaign contribution limits for future election cycles. 

The new limits would allow a $250 contribution by an individual, $500 by an organization. The amount a candidate can loan to himself or herself will be capped at $1,500. 

“The council’s goal was to reduce financial barriers to running for office as well as to encourage folks to rely more on grassroots outreach and less on self-funding to be competitive,” said Councilwoman Debbie Ruddock. 

The current policy allowed individuals or businesses to donate up to $1,000 to campaigns, and self-loans can be a $5,000 maximum. 

Half Moon Bay is one of four cities in San Mateo County with campaign contribution limits. The ordinance gets reviewed after every City Council election. The previous rules were approved in 2005.

“I was thinking more along the lines of how to try and restrict how money is used in politics,” said Mayor Harvey Rarback. But he noted, the “incumbents will always have an advantage.” 

In 2018, the City Council selected the map it will use for the 2020 election, separating the city into four districts. Within each district, voters will elect their representative and the candidates must live in the district they represent. 

Ruddock says district elections would make it easier for a fresh face to run for office. 

“It will be easier, I think, for someone without name recognition to more easily introduce themselves because they now have to reach fewer people to make their case,” Ruddock said.  “Hopefully, they’re already known to folks living in their neighborhood, and it should be relatively easy to branch out from there going door-to-door, making calls, doing social media and websites, all relatively inexpensive tools.” 

“It’s easier to canvass just your district,” Rarback added. 

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