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Campaign finance: A mid-year snapshot of Triangle races

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There are 15 weeks until the November election, and candidates across the Triangle are balancing their campaign checkbooks. June 30 marked the end of the reporting period for candidates to file paperwork with local and state elections boards. This period covers the weeks just prior to the May 6 primary and up through the second quarter of this year. Below, a sampling of reports from Indy staff writers; in the sidebar to the right, view the full reports.

View the reports

Campaign reports for statewide offices, including all judges, are kept by the state Board of Elections. Reports for local offices are kept by the respective county boards of elections, some of which post reports online. Below are links to statewide and local reports posted online and PDFs of any reports that are not posted online but were available by hard copy as of press time. Some candidates did not meet the July 10 reporting deadline; others are not required to file detailed reports because they have pledged to raise and spend less than $3,000 this election cycle.

Statewide offices
(legislature, governor, council of state, local and statewide judges, etc.)
Search here

Wake County
Kenn Gardner (PDF, 209 KB)
Stan Norwalk (PDF, 1.4 MB)
Larry Tilley (PDF, 590 KB)
Betty Lou Ward (PDF, 148 KB)
Harold Webb (PDF, 109 KB)

Durham County
(commissioners and school board)
Download here

Orange County
(commissioners and referendum committees)
Bernadette Pelissier (PDF, 454 KB)
Download here

Chatham County
(commissioners and PACs)
Patrick Barnes (PDF, 573 KB)
Mike Cross (PDF, 506 KB)
Armentha Davis (PDF, 309 KB)
Sally Kost (PDF, 164 KB)
Jeffrey Starkweather (PDF, 334 KB)

Chatham Coalition (PDF, 422 KB)

Statewide races

Good thing for the Republicans that Robert Pittenger, their candidate for lieutenant governor, is rich. Otherwise, their huge fundraising deficit against the Democrats would be even larger.

Take the candidates for the top four (at least in money terms) Council of State offices. The Democratic candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and treasurer have raised a total of some $15 million this year; after hard-fought primaries for three of those offices—all but attorney general—they retained a combined $3.3 million for the fall elections as of June 30. The four Republican candidates for the same offices raised $5.1 million, and after the primaries—a skirmish for lieutenant governor, no contests for attorney general or treasurer—they retained just $1.4 million.

The leading fundraiser by far this year is Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bev Perdue, the current lieutenant governor, who's raised $10.8 million and retained $1.4 million. Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, the GOP nominee for governor, has raised $2.2 million and retained $709,000.

The GOP's Pittenger has raised almost $2.5 million, but about half of that is a $500,000 loan from his wife and $765,000 in contributions to himself; he retained $316,000. That's more than his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Walter Dalton, who spent most of his $1.5 million winning a tough four-way primary and reported cash on hand of $177,000 as of June 30.

In the Attorney General's race, incumbent Democrat Roy Cooper's raised more than $2 million and, despite having no primary, spent one-quarter of it already. He had $1.5 million on hand. His opponent, Asheboro lawyer Bob Crumley, reported just $686 in his campaign's checking account. But whoa, he's got a campaign savings account of $318,000—pretty thrifty.

Raleigh state Sen. Janet Cowell, the Democratic treasurer nominee, has raised $663,000 so far and had almost $200,000 left in the bank following a hard-fought primary; her Republican opponent, state Rep. Bill Daughtridge of Nash County, had no primary, but his $245,387 fundraising total was down to $74,000 cash on hand at the end of the quarter.

Candidates for state auditor, superintendent of public instruction and insurance commissioner have agreed to take public funds (as part of a pilot program for campaign finance reform) and limit their fundraising. However, the Democratic candidate for auditor, Beth Wood, didn't raise enough money by the deadline to qualify for the public funding, and will have to hustle to collect anything like the $300,000 or so her Republican opponent, incumbent Auditor Leslie Merritt, will have available.

As of June 30, Wood had raised almost $51,000, but reported spending all but $25 of it.

Similarly strapped, after winning a close four-way primary and then a runoff, is Mary Fant Donnan, the Democratic nominee for labor commissioner. Donnan has raised $54,000 so far, but the two campaigns cost her all but $451 of it, as of June 30. Her Republican opponent, incumbent Commissioner Cherie Berry, had $27,860 banked out of her election fundraising total of some $76,000.

Meanwhile, the State Board of Elections reports that there are more than 2.6 million registered Democrats, about 1.9 million registered Republicans, but only 341 registered members of the Libertarian Party.

Somewhat impressive, then, that the Libertarians have managed to field 38 of them as candidates for a state or local office in North Carolina. Combined, their candidates for governor and lieutenant governor have raised almost $13,000 and retain $5,738. (There are no Libertarian nominees for attorney general or treasurer.) Duke political science professor Mike Munger, the gubernatorial nominee, accounted for most of that total; lieutenant governor nominee Philip Rhodes has raised just $400.

Wake County Commissioners

Political control of the Wake Board of County Commissioners is at stake in the fall elections, but you'd never know it from the candidates' sluggish fundraising—especially Kenn Gardner's.

Gardner, who lives in Cary and represents a western Wake district, is the lone Republican seeking re-election this year. If he's defeated, and the two Democratic incumbents both win as expected, control of the board will swing from 4-3 Republican to 4-3 Democrat. But in the second quarter of '08, Gardner collected just four contributions, for a total of $3,600, putting his fundraising total to date at $14,579 with "cash on hand" of $12,388 on June 30. Gardner's biggest backer this year: Build PAC, the political action committee of the N.C. Home Builders Association, which contributed $4,000 to him earlier. Raleigh developer John Kane earlier gave $2,000.

Stan Norwalk, also a Cary resident and Gardner's Democratic opponent, was busier, raising $8,084 in the second quarter, almost all in contributions of $250 or less. The exception: He received $1,000 from John Wilson, a former Raleigh resident who is now president of the National Education Association in Washington. Norwalk's contributors include Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht ($100); school board members Beverley Clark ($250) and Lori Millberg ($100); former school board member Susan Parry ($250); and Raleigh City Councilor Thomas Crowder ($200). Bill Holman, the Duke professor and leading environmentalist, contributed $100.

As of June 30, Norwalk had raised almost $17,000 and retained $13,942 in his treasury.

As for the other two seats on the November ballot, both are held by Democrats seeking re-election. The two, Harold Webb and Betty Lou Ward, don't seem to be sweating it either. Webb reported $5,278 on hand as of June 30, of which $5,000 was a loan to himself. He raised no money in the second quarter. His opponent, Republican Venita Peyton, isn't filing campaign reports; she's pledged to raise and spend less than $3,000, which exempts her from the requirement. Ward has raised $21,375 in all, with $14,882 on hand; her Republican opponent, Raleigh dentist Larry Tilley, has raised $11,826 and retained $6,273 on June 30.

Commissioner candidates run countywide, though they must reside in designated districts.

The recent history of Wake Commissioners elections suggests that incumbents Webb and Ward, Raleigh residents who represent eastern Wake districts, will run ahead of Norwalk countywide, based on their long experience and name recognition and their opponents' lack of same.

If this is a Democratic year, due to the economy and the war, all three Democrats could win easily. But if they don't, the likeliest contest to be close is Norwalk versus Gardner, with Gardner's name recognition helping him survive against an opponent who's a first-time candidate but has some name recognition as a founder and leader of the growth-management group WakeUP Wake County.

Orange County District Court

In the District 15B race for Judge Alonzo Brown Coleman Jr.'s seat, challenger Betsy J. Wolfenden of Chapel Hill is largely funding her own campaign to unseat the incumbent.

Of the $7,700 Wolfenden has raised to date, $5,100 came from her own pocket, including two checks totaling $3,000 this quarter. An additional $2,500 has come from her mother and stepfather in Naples, Fla., and a $100 check from her sister in New York. Wolfenden spent about $3,300 on mailings and a Web site this quarter, leaving her with $625 in cash on hand.

Coleman had raised $5,821 as of the end of June, with about $4,657 of that coming in May and June from individual contributors. All contributors whose names were listed are attorneys in Orange and Chatham counties, which comprise District 15B. Those contributors include retired judge Gordon Battle. Coleman has more than $4,000 left in cash on hand.

Orange County Commissioners

Given Orange County's tendency to vote blue, there's not likely to be much of a contest between Bernadette Pelissier, who won the Democratic primary for the at-large county commissioner seat in May, and her Republican rival, Kevin Wolff.

It's unclear just who is backing Wolff. The candidate has pledged not to raise or spend more than $3,000, so he is not required to file detailed campaign finance reports.

But perhaps he won't need much money: Campaign yard signs for wife Mary M. Wolff's unsuccessful run against Pelissier in the Democratic primary say only "Wolff for Commissioner" and feature a family photo of Kevin, Mary and the kids. The Wolffs win the prize for campaign thrift and clever recycling.

Meanwhile, Pelissier had raised approximately $13,900 in the campaign as of June 30, including an additional $725 in individual contributions in April and May. She has spent $12,100, leaving almost $1,800 in cash on hand.

Durham County Commissioners

Durham County Commissioner Michael Page, one of five Democrats to survive the May primary and now running unopposed in the 2008 election for county commissioner, made a sea change in fundraising shortly before the primary. A few days into the second-quarter reporting period, which began in April, he waived his commitment to raise and spend less than $3,000, the limit at which candidates do not have to disclose the sources of their funding. After raising roughly $1,400 in the first quarter (February-April), he collected more than $8,800 between April and June—twice as much as any other candidate. (Brenda Howerton raised the second highest amount, roughly $4,250.) However, in his second-quarter financial report, Page did not disclose the employers of his 25 major donors, and provided job descriptions for just four: lawyer, attorney, pastor, retired. In an interview with the Independent, Page referred to the blank boxes on his report an "oversight."

"I have a campaign treasurer who takes care of that, and she didn't have the correct information. She asked me to do it, and I didn't hear her when she asked me," Page said.

Durham Elections Director Mike Ashe said his office also made a mistake in not catching the error. He said that Page had agreed to amend his second-quarter report this week.

Page said he had originally agreed to remain within the $3,000 threshold at the beginning of this campaign because he had raised $2,112 in 2004.

A week before the primary, after waiving the threshold, Page received a $2,500 contribution from the N.C. Association of Realtors political action committee, nearly twice the amount of money he had received overall in the first quarter. He also received at least $500 from individual developers, though complete employment information was not available. (By comparison, Becky Heron listed $1,375 in second-quarter contributions from developers and their spouses.)

"The majority of my money came from friends and citizens of Durham. There are people I know who happen to be developers who sent me money, and I'm very appreciative of that," Page said. "I need you to understand that I welcome contributions from the entire public. But no contribution has influence over what I do as Durham County Commissioner."

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