2023 Election notebook: Bloomington mayoral candidates have so far raised a combined $327K

Pre-primary campaign finance reports for the May 2 primary election were due on Friday by noon.

When added to the year-end reports from 2022, the reports filed by the Democratic Party’s three candidates for mayor of Bloomington show that they have raised a total of about $327,000.

If election turnout for the May 2 primary is similar to the last couple of cycles, around 5,000 voters will cast a ballot. If the candidates spend every dollar before the election, that works out to about $65 invested in each voter.

Raising the most of the three was Kerry Thomson. The roughly $106,000 that she raised from Jan. 1 through April 7 this year brought her overall total to just under $200,000.

In this year’s pre-primary period, Don Griffin raised $47,000, bringing his total to about $73,000.

Susan Sandberg raised about $30,000 in this year’s pre-primary period, bringing her total to about $55,000.

Sandberg and Thomson formed committees and started fundraising in June last year. Griffin got a later start, in December, because incumbent mayor John Hamilton did not announce that he wasn’t seeking reelection until mid-November.

Here’s a breakdown of how much each candidate has raised so far and when, based on a shared Google Sheet—compiled by The B Square  and cross-checked against totals listed on the campaign filings for each candidate.

Report Griffin Sandberg Thomson
2022 Annual Itemized $25,774 $18,879 $84,427
2022 Annual Unitemized $213 $6,338 $8,401
2022 Total $25,987 $25,217 $92,828
Pre-Primary 2023 Itemized $45,538 $21,952 $98,167
Pre-Primary 2023 Unitemized $1,835 $7,781 $7,674
Pre-Primary 2023 Total $47,373 $29,733 $105,841
Grand Total $73,360 $54,949 $198,669


Geographic source of donations

The B Square used “Bloomington addresses” as a kludged proxy for local contributions. That method will include more donations than are strictly inside the city’s municipal boundaries.

Sandberg received 96 percent of her money from local donors. Of Thomson’s money, 77 percent came from local donors. Griffin received about 64 percent of his contributions from locals.

Here’s a link: dynamic Google map with donation plots. The donations for each candidate can be toggled on and off.

Donation size

The contributions of donors who give a total of less than $100 don’t have to be itemized on campaign finance sheets. That means numbers of donors based on the itemized contributions will necessarily reflect an undercount.

Based on the itemized contributions, across the two reporting periods so far, 200 unique donors have contributed to the Thomson campaign, which works out to an average donor giving around $913.

For Griffin, 99 unique donors gave to his campaign, which means the average Griffin donor gave $720.

Sandberg received donations from 78 unique donors, averaging $523 per donor.


Of the $198,669 that Thomson has raised, almost half (47 percent of it) has been spent on consulting, branding, strategy, and campaign management, according to her campaign filings. The breakdown looks like this: Berlin Rosen ($67,021); Doyle Strategy Group ($5,000); Jeff Harris ($12,000); and Jacob Schwartz ($9,000), for a total of $93,021.

Berlin Rosen is a public relations firm that specializes in strategic communications. Doyle Strategy Group is a public affairs and communications firm. Jeff Harris is an independent consultant for communications and branding. Jacob Schwartz is Thomson’s campaign manager.

Griffin’s campaign has spent around $20,000 on strategy and public relations: Change Media Group ($6,279); Justin Crossley ($1,000); Laffoon Design and Marketing ($1,050); Ryan Still ($1,500); Gusto ($10,969).

Change Media Group is a strategic communications and digital media agency. Justin Crossley produces and directs videos—he’s currently the city of Bloomington’s digital brand manager. Laffoon Design and Marketing is a marketing and ad agency. Ryan Still is the campaign’s field coordinator. Griffin told The B Square Gusto is a payroll company—also used by his real estate company—through which the campaign pays its campaign manager, Anna Dubois.

The only expenditure that appears to fit into the general category of branding and public relations for the Sandberg campaign is a $3,000 in-kind item from Caroline Dowd-Higgins, for executive coaching and consulting.

Links to Campaign Finance Filings

Kerry Thomson 2022
Kerry Thomson 2023 pre-primary 

Don Griffin 2022
Don Griffin 2023 pre-primary 

Susan Sandberg 2022
Susan Sandberg 2023 pre-primary

12 thoughts on “2023 Election notebook: Bloomington mayoral candidates have so far raised a combined $327K

  1. it is neat how their different strategic decisions are represented in their fund-raising. Sandberg doesn’t need money because everyone’s already heard of her, and her xenophobic message sells itself. Griffin needs money because people don’t really know him yet, but he seems to be relatively (compared to Thomson anyways), ‘just a guy’, without a huge focus on building up a network of donors. and Thomson’s strategy seems to be to competently and thoroughly saturate all the channels with images of her rolling up her sleeves and saying the word ‘cooperation’…literally no message, so she will win just by out-campaigning.

    and i’ll say, i absolutely *hate* the “if elected, i will roll up my sleeves and go hoosiers!” mode of campaigning but there is no question that Thomson (and Hamilton before her) is really doing a good job of it. i just wish i knew what it would add up to. if she’s going to be at all progressive about anything then she’s just cruising for her own “Mayor Hamilton, we didn’t elect you to destroy our neighborhoods” moment when all the regressives that she courted with empty language find out. i don’t like it. i think it’s literal disenfranchisement.

    makes it hard for anyone to point to a mandate from the people. it makes for moments filled with an inappropriate myth of consensus, where people say ‘no one wants this, why are you doing it’, when in fact a ton of people wanted it but they wound up voting for a candidate who said nothing, promised nothing. the renters and not-student-hating residents who vote for Thomson because they think she’s less of a NIMBY than Sandberg will be essentially invisible once that rhetoric starts up. people will pretend that Thomson’s margin of victory proves NIMBYs are an overwhelming majority, and it will lead them to make toxic rhetoric. instead of trying to find common ground with the true overwhelming majority that knows Bloomington needs to grow, they will assume a narrative about the election that tells them that they represent the only true faith and all others are minority heretics.

    my point is, this policy-devoid mode of campaigning *makes it harder to find common ground*. it reifies the same problem it pretends to address! sigh.

    i do not belong in electoral politics 🙂

    1. Your last statement may be correct, as much as I hate to say it. Your style in your public comments and social media posts speaks to a ‘shoot from the hip’ approach that frankly expresses how you actually feel about things regardless of whom it offends, which we could certainly use more of in our politicians. But it may be an inherent disqualification in terms of winning over a broader electorate, or remaining on the traffic commission. Shame, that.

      I worry that Thomson and Griffin are going to split the vote of the more ‘progressive’ portion of primary voters, and we’ll end up with Sandberg by default, the exact opposite of progressive, who will be more of the same (or worse) as Hamilton’s administration has been.

  2. It’s too bad Kerry spent so much on branding only to use a county landmark and not a city landmark

      1. It sure is. It just seems odd for a city election. Check out Nicole Bolden’s image of the Showers building which demonstrates her dedication to the city

      2. Kerry and Susan are great public servants, just not equipped to be Mayor. Campaigns are about divisions and differentiating each candidate from the other. Donald has the vision and ability to actually make things work.

      3. Of course as her husband you will defend her. I would expect nothing less

      4. “It sure is” but it isn’t? These are the relevant facts, regardless of who states them: The court house is a Bloomington landmark; Bloomington is located in Monroe County. Aren’t you voting for Jonas?

    1. To be clear, that was my impulsive idea and not Kerry’s idea. I was the photographer and I am not a politician. That was my mistake Sue. Please do not blame that on Kerry. Maybe you could take that a step further and say it shows she is willing to work with the county if elected.

      1. It was Kerry who chose to use it. It isn’t your responsibility. If someone wants to be Mayor, they need to accept all feedback…good and bad.

        I hope county Commissioner candidates will use your work in 2024

  3. It’s odd to me that people would fund a candidate who says almost nothing of substance. The first time I heard Thomson speak at the Democratic Club meeting her message was clear from the first minute, nothing is working in Bloomington. She just failed to mention what exactly that nothing was. I see new apartments going up where the old K-Mart on the Eastside was, I see new apartments on S Rogers with a new library coming to that same area. I see a former eyesore of two dilapidated homes being replaced by two new apartment buildings on S Henderson by Black Lumber. I see new restaurants downtown, so many I haven’t tried them all, a new YMCA I’ve never been in, and many new roundabouts to facilitate the movement of autos. I see electric buses, bike lanes to improve that mode of transport and miles of new trails. I read of thousands of new jobs in our community and less than a year ago help wanted signs in almost every commercial building I entered,.. but nothing is working in Bloomington says Ms. Thomson, I honestly have no idea what she means.
    If you are nostalgic for the “good old days” you vote Sandberg, if you want something but don’t know what it is, you vote Thomson, if you want managed progress for all, with an attempt at sustainability you vote for Don Griffin, he is the only serious candidate for mayor.

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