Reston, VA

Campaign contributions to the Town of Herndon’s mayoral and town council races have been relatively sparse with Election Day just over a month away.

Campaign finance reports filed with the Virginia Department of Elections on Sept. 15 show that Sheila Olem and Roland Taylor, the two candidates seeking to replace outgoing Mayor Lisa Merkel, have received $925 and $957, respectively, in total contributions since January.

According to her latest campaign finance report, which covers the period from July 1 to Aug. 31, Olem received a $250 donation from Fairfax City Councilmember Janice Miller on Aug. 1. She also loaned $500 to her campaign in July and has gotten $175 in small cash donations since January.

Taylor, a public servant in local law enforcement, is responsible for all of the financial donations to his campaign.

By contrast, Merkel, who announced in January that she will step down at the conclusion of her fourth term as Herndon’s mayor, received more than $17,500 in contributions for all three of her reelection campaigns, topping $20,000 in both 2014 and 2016, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

Olem, who currently serves as Herndon’s vice mayor, attributes the sluggish rate of donations to the town’s mayoral contest to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, which is driven by close contact between people and, as a result, has limited candidates’ ability to interact with voters in-person.

Olem says she tries to keep supporters updated through email and Facebook, but she is aware that not everyone uses social media, and emails will not reach people unless they are on her campaign’s mailing list.

“That’s the most difficult part of it, and I don’t think that’s good for the voters,” Olem said. “I usually have several events, and then people will come and chat with me, and they’ll give donations. It’s just really hard this time.”

Sean Regan leads candidates for the Herndon Town Council in terms of campaign contributions.

A member of Herndon’s Planning Commission since 2012, Regan is one of 10 people vying for a seat on Herndon’s six-member town council.

The $6,710 in campaign contributions that Regan has reported to the state since January is more than twice as much as what any other candidate has accumulated, though much of that money comes out of his own pocket.

In addition to receiving $700 in cash donations, Regan has given $6,000 to his campaign in the form of a $2,000 direct donation and two separate $2,000 loans.

While Regan has the highest cumulative total of contributions, rival town council candidate Stevan Porter has attracted the most donors, receiving $2,583 from 18 different contributors as of Aug. 31.

Financial support for Porter’s campaign has mostly come from individual donors, but the IT professional and paramedic has also reported two separate $100 in-kind contributions from the Libertarian National Committee for the use of an eCanvasser campaign management system.

Total contributions to the other Herndon Town Council candidates’ campaign include:

Naila Alam, Bessie Denton, Pradip Dhakal, and Syed Iftikhar have not reported any campaign contributions as of Virginia’s Sept. 15 filing deadline for candidates who will be on the ballot for this November’s election. Denton and Iftikhar withdrew their candidacy after the results of the local Democratic caucus.

Virginia law requires that candidates seeking public office disclose all campaign contributions and expenditures to the state.

Full campaign finance reports for Herndon’s mayoral and town council candidates are available on the Virginia Department of Elections website.

Image via Town of Herndon

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