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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.