Storrow Raises Big Money In Race For Chapel Hill Town Council

Incumbent Lee Storrow has raised more than $21,200 in his bid for re-election to the Chapel Hill Town Council.

He’s spent roughly $4,300 so far, leaving him with $17,000 in the bank. That total is head and shoulders above the next highest fundraiser, challenger Nancy Oates, who has collected $8,400 to date, including $3,900 she loaned to her campaign. She’s spent $4,900 and has $3,600 on hand.

Storrow was the top fundraiser in 2011, when he raised and spent $12,000 to win his first council race. At the time, he drew criticism for taking in a number of out-of-town donations, though many came from family and friends in his hometown of Asheville.

This time he’s cast a wider net, receiving more than $1,000 from 20 donors with Washington D.C. addresses, as well as others from Maryland, Virginia, Texas and Utah.

When it comes to out-of-town donors, former council member Matt Czajkowski isn’t running in any race, in fact he’s not even in the country, but his name appears throughout the latest batch of campaign finance records.

He and his wife Jill Hawkins each donated the maximum allowed to Oates, $336 apiece. Hawkins also donated that amount to mayoral challenger Pam Hemminger, and both donated $360 to school board candidate Gregg Gerdeau. Czajkowski’s son Zach is the treasurer for Gerdeau’s campaign.

Czajkowski stepped down in March help run a nonprofit in Rwanda, but his family still owns property in Chapel Hill.

Of the nine council candidates, the newcomers to the race have by and large raised and spent more than the incumbents. Council member Donna Bell has raised a little more than $3,000 and spent less than half that. Four-term council member Jim Ward is running a quiet campaign, raising and spending only $5.

By comparison, challengers Michael Parker, David Schwartz, and Jessica Anderson have each collected between $4,000 and $6,500 and spent roughly $3,000 each.

Adam Jones has raised $2,800. His campaign finance report does not list any expenditures, despite the presence of numerous campaign signs across town. Finally, two-time council candidate Paul Neebe reports collecting and spending just $300.

The CHALT political action committee has raised $4,000, but spent little. The Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town still has $3,500 in the bank in the lead-up to the November 3 municipal election..

Chapel Hill Mayoral Race Heats Up As Campaign Dollars Roll In

Challenger Pam Hemminger has raised more money than incumbent Mark Kleinschmidt in the race for Chapel Hill Mayor.

Campaign finance reports from July through September show Hemminger raised $12,400 dollars in her bid to upset Mayor Kleinschmidt in the upcoming municipal election.

Of that, she’s spent $4,600 and has $7,700 to spend as the campaign heats up. She received 122 donations in total; 31 of those were under $50 and 91 donations ranged from $50 to $336.

By contrast, Kleinschmidt took in a total of 71 donations, raising a total of $7,800. He’s spent $3,246 and has $4,636 on hand.

The other candidate, Gary Kahn, reports raising and spending just $5.

Kleinschmidt ran unopposed in 2013. In 2011, he faced spoof candidate Tim Sookram, and Kevin Wolfe, who dropped out midway.

He hasn’t faced strong opposition since 2009, when he narrowly beat Matt Czjakowski to win the mayor’s seat. During that election, Kleinschmidt participated in a town-sponsored Voter-Owned Election program. He qualified for $13,000 worth of public financing and raised an additional $5,000 on his own. The public financing program has since been discontinued by the state legislature.

Democrats Outraise GOP In Race For Local NCGA Seats

North Carolina State Senator Valerie Foushee and Representative Graig Meyer are each running for office for the first time since being appointed to their positions last fall, but their relative newcomer status isn’t proving a hindrance to high-dollar fundraising.

According to campaign finance reports, Meyer has brought in more than $119,000 this election season. Of that, he’s spent $50,000, leaving $69,700 in his campaign coffers. Meanwhile Rod Chaney, the Republican challenger vying for the House 50 seat, has raised approximately $7,200 and spent $2,000.

In the race for Senate District 23, Valerie Foushee has raised $56,600 and spent $32,900, leaving her with $26,900 in the bank as the fall campaign season heats up. Foushee’s opponent Mary Lopez-Carter, by contrast, has raised just $2,200 and spent half.

In the House District 56 race, incumbent Verla Insko has brought in $117,000 and spent all but $33,000. Her opponent, Dave Carter, reports raising $517, He’s spent about $150, with $360 on hand.

All candidates report donations from political action committees. Meyer has received $7,000 from PACs including $500 from the NC Dental Society and $4,000 from fellow Representative Insko’s campaign. He has donated $9,000 to other candidates or committees.

Foushee reports collecting $8,650 from political action committees including $5,000 from Lillian’s List, and $750 from McGuire Woods LLC, a Richmond-based lobbying firm representing attorneys.

Insko received $5,000 in donations from PACs, including $1,000 each from the Nationwide Carolina Political Participation Fund, NC Advocates for Justice and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC Employee PAC. A large chunk of Insko’s spending, $65,000 worth, has gone to fund other campaigns, including $15,000 to the Democratic Party of N.C.

Chaney, Carter and Lopez-Carter have received a combined total of $1,200 from the Orange County Republican party, and Lopez-Carter accepted an additional $250 from the North Carolina Republican Party.

Orange County Sheriff Hopeful Spends Big

Orange County will elect a new sheriff for the first time in three decades, and with six Democrats vying for the job, that race will be decided in next week’s primary. With that in mind, candidates are spending the majority of their campaign dollars now.

But no one has raised and spent as much as Charles Blackwood. According to first quarter campaign finance reports, the 32-year veteran of the sheriff’s office raised $34,732 so far this election cycle.

That includes $5,473 the campaign had on hand at the beginning of the race, another $5,852 Blackwood loaned his campaign, and $28,880 from individuals.

Of that, Blackwood has spent $22,759. In addition to paying for signs and banners, the campaign has spent $5,000 on mailers, $3,400 on hats and tee-shirts, $1,000 on a custom car-wrap, and $460 in fuel.

This puts him head and shoulders above his competition. For comparison,  Keith Webster has raised $8,033, David Caldwell has raised $4,622, Andy Cagle has $4,270, Larry Faucette has $3,535 and Buddy Parker has $2,271.

While most of the candidates have spent the bulk of the money raised, Blackwood still has $11,845 in his campaign coffers, which may prove useful if next week’s primary triggers a run-off. If no one garners more than 40 percent of the vote, the top two candidates could face off in a second primary later this summer.

Early voting is underway now until Saturday. The primary is next Tuesday. For more about each candidate, you can listen to a forum hosted by the Orange County Democratic Party here.

Hauser, McKee Lead In Fundraising For BoCC Races

With less than a week to go until the May primary, Bonnie Hauser and Earl McKee have raised and spent more than their competitors in the race for two seats on the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

First-time candidate Bonnie Hauser is challenging incumbent Barry Jacobs for an At-Large seat on the Board of Commissioners. According to first quarter campaign finance reports, Hauser has raised $12,314 and spent $10,269, while Jacobs has raised $8,991 and spent $4,431.

In the race for the District 2 seat representing Hillsborough and rural Orange County, incumbent Earl McKee has raised and spent nearly double that of challenger Mark Marcoplos.

McKee brought in $10,848 in the last four months and spent $5,662, while Marcoplos has raised $3,948 and spent approximately $2,800.

All the candidates are Democrats with no Republican challengers, meaning both the At-large and District 2 races will be decided in next week’s primary. Early voting is currently underway now until Saturday. The primary election is Tuesday, May 6.

Money Makes The Vote Go ‘Round, But Less So In Chapel Hill

Working for WCHL, I get paid* to keep my attention focused on Orange County—but every time I happen to look outside, I find myself reminded just how good we have it here.

Case in point: campaign spending.

Every election cycle, it seems, we always have the prerequisite bit of handwringing over the insidious creep of money into our little democracy. Four years ago it was Matt Czajkowski outspending Mark Kleinschmidt; two years ago it was Lee Storrow pulling donations from non-Chapel Hillians or Jon DeHart taking money from developers; this year it was the NCGA cancelling “voter-owned elections.” Campaign spending was lower in 2013 than 2011, but even so you still ended up with one candidate, George Cianciolo, who raised around $10,000. Ten thousand dollars was sort of a magic hand-wringy number back in 2011, when three Council candidates topped it. Less handwringing this year, but that only goes to prove that $10,000 is becoming the norm.

Money money money money money money money!


Well, maybe. Ten thousand dollars sure is a lot to drop on a Council seat. Chapel Hill’s an affluent town, but even so, there aren’t many of us with that much loose change. Sure, it’s mostly donations, but that still means you need the free time to go around soliciting donors—and you also need to be well-connected enough to know the donors first. Once it starts costing $10,000 to run for Council, that rules out most everybody in town. You’ll end up with the power elite.

That’s concerning—but it’s not all bad either. If you have to raise $10,000 for a Council seat, it does severely limit the pool of possible candidates—but then again, raising ten grand also signals that you’re a committed candidate who’s good enough to draw support from a wide range of people. (Provided there are loophole-free limits on individual donations, of course. Little things.)

But all that aside—

Is ten thousand really that big a deal?

Take Lansing. Lansing, Michigan, is my hometown, with a population of about 110,000 and a mayor named Virg Bernero. You may know Virg if you listen to Ed Schultz on WCHL; he’s the go-to guest when Ed wants to rip on Michigan’s union-busting Republican governor.

But here’s the upshot. Bernero just ran for reelection in 2013. His only opponent on the ballot was a former City Councilman named Harold Leeman, a nice guy whose primary motivation for running was simply to give voters a viable choice. Leeman campaigned lightly: in an interview with the local paper just before the election, he even admitted (in so many words) that he had no real chance of winning.

This was Virg Bernero’s only opponent.

And Virg Bernero went out and raised A HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS.

More than $110,000, in fact. (Here’s the data.) $110,000 equates to one dollar for each Lansing resident. To put it in Chapel Hill terms, that’d be the equivalent of Mark Kleinschmidt raising $60,000 to beat Tom Henkel.

And what did Virg Bernero get for his trouble?

Less than ten thousand votes.

9,863 votes, to be precise. (Here’s the data.) Leeman finished exactly six thousand votes behind. Turnout was extremely low in Lansing too, as it turned out–so when all was said and done, Bernero raised about ten dollars for every vote he got. Meanwhile in Chapel Hill, Kleinschmidt received 4,165 votes, almost half Bernero’s total, spending almost no money at all. (I can’t be sure, but I think Henkel’s supporters may have actually outspent him.)

And Bernero’s fundraising bonanza is only the tip of the iceberg. Down in Alabama they just spent millions—millions!—to choose the Republican candidate for a U.S. House seat. That’s just a primary, mind you; the general election is still a month away. And while that race was an outlier—it was a Tea Partier taking on a traditional business conservative, so money came pouring in from all over—it’s still a good illustration of just how pricey these things can get.

So whenever we lament the rising cost of electoral politics in Orange County, it’s well to remember (if only to feel a little better about the way things are) that we still have it pretty good around here, all things considered.

Relatively, at least.

* No footnote. I just felt like that needed an asterisk.