If you want to score a seat in Allentown’s highest office, it’s going to take more than a well-funded campaign.
Campaign finance records show that one of the biggest spenders in the Allentown mayoral race was also one of the biggest losers. Siobhan “Sam” Bennett, a three-time candidate for mayor, spent more than $81,500 during a lengthy campaign that kicked off nearly a year before the May 2017 primary.
Bennett’s reward for that spending: a distant fourth-place finish. The Democratic candidate received 12 percent of the vote, trailing incumbent Mayor Ed Pawlowski’s 28 percent, City Council President Ray O’Connell’s 23 percent and city school board member Charlie Thiel’s 22 percent.
Thiel, a Democrat and former security company executive who twice ran expensive but unsuccessful races for Allentown City Council, spent the second most per vote, $94 for each of the 1,302 votes he received. Thiel was also the biggest overall spender in the race. His campaign, led by veteran political consultants, cost $122,700, campaign finance records show.
Pawlowski got a bang for his buck with the $105,900 that he spent on his campaign. The Democratic nominee and three-term incumbent spent $63 per vote, and secured the nomination despite an ongoing federal investigation into alleged pay-to-play practices at City Hall. Nine people have pleaded guilty. Pawlowski, who has not been charged, maintains his innocence.
O’Connell, a former Allentown School District administrator, got the largest return for his $17,200 investment in his campaign, according to campaign finance records. The two-term councilman jumped into the race later than most of his competitors and spent just $13 per vote for his second-place finish.
Fifth place finisher David Jones, a Democratic Lehigh County commissioner, spent nearly $26,000, according to finance records, or $46 for each of the 570 votes he received. Jones was trailed by Joshua Siegel, a recent graduate of Seton Hall University and a newcomer to the Allentown political scene. Siegel spent $9,800 on the race, or $34 per vote, according to campaign finance records.
Dark-horse candidate Nathan Woodring, a local truck driver and former Wilson Borough councilman, raised no money for his campaign. He received 33 votes.
On the Republican side, businessman Nat Hyman vastly outspent his grassroots opponent Luiz Garcia, but was more conservative with his spending than most of the Democrats who ran. Hyman spent $44,100 on his successful bid for the Republican nomination, according to campaign finance records. That’s $31 per vote.
Hyman will face Pawlowski in the November municipal election.
Garcia, an Allentown police officer, was forced to go into debt when two law firms funded by Hyman challenged the legality of his candidacy. Garcia survived the case, but as a result spent nearly $14,000 — more than $12,000 of which was for legal fees, campaign finance records show. The spending amounted to about $21 per vote.
Bang for their buck:
Siobhan “Sam” Bennett: $81,500 or $115/vote
Charlie Thiel: $122,700 or $94/vote
Ed Pawlowski: $105,900 or $63/vote
David Jones: $25,900 or $46/vote
Joshua Siegel: $9,800 or $34/vote
Nat Hyman: $44,100 or $31/vote
Luiz Garcia: $14,000 or $21/vote
Ray O’Connell: $17,200 or $13/vote
Nathan Woodring: $0