Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White
Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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Things could soon go from bad to worse for Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White’s mayoral campaign. Even if it survives a petition signature challenge, a key funding source may disappear.

It appears White will fall short of a crucial fundraising threshold allowing him to continue receiving public financing, according to an analysis provided to Loose Lips by a longtime activist. LL was able to confirm the data by studying White’s financial reports, which detail his fundraising efforts through March 30.

The key question is whether White managed to raise at least $40,000 from 1,000 different D.C. donors by March 23. That’s the deadline for the Office of Campaign Finance to certify that mayoral candidates qualify for the Fair Elections program, entitling them to receive five-to-one matching funds for donations from District residents.

His chief rivals, Mayor Muriel Bowser and At-Large Councilmember Robert White, met that standard with ease. And the Ward 8 lawmaker reported in his most recent filings that he did so as well—squeaking by with $40,494 through March 23, per those documents.

But there are a few issues that could drop his total to about $39,300, which could disqualify him for the public funds and cut off a vital source of funding for his bid. He already lagged far behind the mayor and Robert White in fundraising, but matching funds could help level the playing field.

A spokesman for OCF says “no official determination has been made by the office regarding whether the candidate has been certified or not,” and White’s most recent report is still under review. Trayon White did not respond to a request for comment.

The main issue with White’s fundraising, according his finance reports, is a common one for D.C. campaigns: donors exceeding contribution limits. Normally, candidates catch these problems and refund the money, but it White seems not to have done so for 11 different donors that exceeded the $200 limit. Among the excess donors are Rev. Graylan Hagler, White’s campaign chair, and Tamika Hampton, one of the Black women officers suing the Metropolitan Police Department over claims of racial discrimination and sexual harassment within the agency.

Those errant donations are the kinds of issues OCF will look for, and they have big implications if White hopes to hit that $40,000 target. Subtract those $1,050 in excess contributions, and White’s total drops below the threshold.

Plus, White seems to have errantly listed a total of $115 from three contributors as coming from D.C.-based donors when the trio actually lives in the suburbs. That would further drop his total to a final tally of $39,329.

There is also the matter of the sudden surge of contributions White recorded as the public finance deadline neared. While a bit harder to prove that something is amiss here, his paperwork looks unusual enough that several D.C. politicos have mentioned the issue to LL over the past few weeks.

From March 18 through March 23, White reported receiving a total of 314 cash donations, with nearly all of them ranging between $5 and $25 each, which makes up about half of all the contributions he received in February and March. Many more contributions have no payment method reported, and the vast majority of those contributors were listed as being unemployed.

It’s not unusual in and of itself that White might see a surge in donations before the deadline, particularly if he was putting out last-minute fundraising appeals. But to see so many cash donations all in the span of a few days certainly raises LL’s eyebrows. White would’ve had to hold some sort of huge in-person rally or visited hundreds of homes in just a few days to pull off that feat.

It looks all the more curious when you consider that White’s late fundraising push far eclipsed his previous efforts. Through March 10, White reported receiving money from 277 D.C.-based contributors. By March 30, he reported that he’d added roughly 730 new donors.

White has yet to receive any public funds, unlike Bowser and Robert White, so he has a lot riding on the outcome of OCF’s review. And it’s unclear whether he’ll get a decision on the matter before the conclusion of an even more existential threat to his campaign: Robert White’s challenge to his petition signatures, which could force him off the ballot entirely.

A spokesperson for the D.C. Board of Elections says the challenge will likely receive a hearing next week, alongside all the other signature disputes among candidates. The board has to make a final decision on that question by April 25.