Follow the money is always good advice in politics.
If you are betting on political races, the safe bet is always on the candidate who raises the most money. There are exceptions – our current president is one – and a challenger usually has to raise considerably more money than the incumbent to unseat them. But all things being equal, the candidate who raises the most money usually wins.
The pre-primary campaign financial reports for the Greensboro City Council candidates, which cover all the money raised through August 29, were due on Tuesday, Sept. 5. With the primary on Tuesday, Oct. 10, there is still plenty of time to raise money but this pre-primary report gives a good idea of who is winning the money race.
The whole election is strange. Although 38 candidates filed, five have since dropped out, bringing the total number of candidates that are still running down to 33. But because they all dropped out too late to be removed from the ballot, all 38 names will be on the ballot for the Oct. 10 primary.
The two biggest fundraisers so far in this election are both running in district races. They have both raised more money than any of the mayoral candidates or anyone running at large. District 4 City Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann is known as a prodigious fundraiser and, as usual, Hoffmann has far outstripped everyone else in fundraising, having raised $61,830 this election cycle, which added to the $11,569 she already had in her campaign account, gave her a total of $73,399. Hoffmann has already spent $28,450, which is more than most of the candidates will raise and spend during the entire election, and she has $44,950 in her campaign account going into the primary. Hoffmann not only raises a lot of money, she has always made good use of her campaign funds, running an efficient and professional campaign.
Although there will be two other District 4 candidates on the ballot, Andrew Belford has dropped out meaning her only opponent is Gary Kenton, who has not filed his pre-primary report yet, but as of July 27 he had raised $3,025, and $2,000 of that is a loan from Kenton to the campaign. It is not unusual for candidates to loan money to their campaigns. It is often done to give the campaign a little operating capital, until the fundraising kicks in.
District 3 Councilmember Justin Outling is number two on the list for the most money raised with $46,600 and he had $1,182 in his campaign account for a total of $47,782 available. Outling has spent $8,666, so he is in pretty good shape going into the primary with $39,117 in his campaign account.
His only opponent who is raising money and filing reports is District 3 City Council candidate Craig Martin, who has raised $1,867 and spent $841, so he has $1,026 in his campaign account. District 3 City Council candidate Antuan Marsh filed a “Certificate of Threshold” statement to not raise or spend more than $1,000, so he has no campaign finance reporting to do. Payton McGarry will be on the ballot but has dropped out of the race.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan, who is running for reelection, has raised $5,750 and has $28,323 in her campaign account for a total of $34,073. She has spent $11,774 and has $22,299 going forward into the primary. In 2015, Vaughan ran against Sal Leone and Devin King. Vaughan defeated King in the general election, winning 88 percent of the vote, so she didn’t need to spend much.
Dianne Moffett, who registered to vote in Greensboro and filed to run for mayor on the same day, has raised a total of $24,752 and spent $11,122, so she has cash on hand of $13,799. Moffett loaned her campaign committee $5,132 and the campaign committee has paid her back $1,500, so the numbers on the campaign finance report are a little difficult to follow.
Mayoral candidate John Brown, according to his campaign finance report, has raised $10,551 and spent $6,240, leaving him a balance of $4,312 going into the primary season. It appears that Brown has put $7,239 in loans and cash into his own campaign.
Regardless of how much of his own money Brown has spent, he is well behind the other two candidates in fundraising. Brown formed his campaign committee in August 2016, nearly a year before filing opened for municipal races. Often a candidate will form a campaign committee early to get a head start on raising money, but Brown also filed a threshold statement that he wouldn’t raise or spend more than $1,000. He withdrew his threshold statement on July 25, 2017, which allowed him to raise and spend campaign funds.
However, according to his campaign finance statement, he contributed over $3,500 to his own campaign before withdrawing the threshold statement on July 25. Campaign finance reports can be amended and often are because of some of the arcane rules, and the forms are not the least bit user friendly.
The at-large race looks daunting on paper, with 15 candidates filing to run. But as far as campaign finance reports, it’s not too tough. At-large candidates Tijuana Hayes, Sylvine Hill, James Ingram and Andy Nelson all signed threshold statements that they would not raise or spend more than $1,000, which means they don’t have to file financial reports. It also means they have almost no chance of winning. Greensboro is a city of over 280,000 people and there is simply no way to let people know that you are running, much less why you are running, without spending some money. People may feel like they shouldn’t have to raise money to run for office and, of course, they don’t. But they do have to raise money if they expect to win, particularly running in a citywide race with 15 candidates.
One of the reasons that incumbents have a huge advantage is simply name recognition, and these candidates that aren’t raising money also have almost no name recognition.
Then there are Irving Allen, M.A. Bakie, Dianne Bellamy-Small, Lindy Perry-Garnette and Dan Jackson, who evidently missed the Tuesday deadline for filing their pre-primary campaign finance reports, so there is no current information available on how much money they have raised.
And that leaves the candidates who are raising money and did file their reports. At-large City Councilmember Mike Barber and first-time candidate Michelle Kennedy are running neck and neck in fundraising and are far ahead of anyone else in the race for which information is available.
At-large City Councilmember Mike Barber has raised $20,951. But since he had $4,395 in his account, his total is $25,345. Of that he has spent $14,055, so Barber has $11,290 going forward. The total raised includes a $5,000 loan from Barber to his campaign
Kennedy has actually raised more in this election cycle, at $21,660, and being a first-time candidate didn’t have any money in her campaign account to add to her total. But she has only spent $2,756, so she has $18,904 available.
Although the candidate with most money usually wins, Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson is one of those candidates who doesn’t fit the mold. Johnson has never lost an at-large race for City Council despite often not being the best financed candidate.
Johnson has raised $6,510 for this election. She started off with $2,044 in her campaign account for a total of $8,554, and has spent $1,926, so she has $6,627 going into the primary season.
At-large City Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter raised $4,235 and had $1,329 in her campaign account for a total of $5,564. Abuzuaiter has spent $2,791 and has $2,772 in her account.
At-large City Council candidate Dave Wils has raised $3,894 so far for this election, and since he is a first-time candidate he didn’t have any leftover money in a campaign account to carry forward. Wils has spent $523, so he has $3,371 at this point in the primary season.
Wils is the only candidate in the race who filed his campaign finance reports electronically, which means they are completely legible. Most candidates filled their reports out by hand and some people don’t have great penmanship. It would be a great blessing to all those looking at campaign information if more candidates used this electronic feature so there is no question about the numbers or the names. Certainly in the future, as more younger candidates run, the idea of filling a form out by hand will be so foreign to them that they won’t even consider it. They will probably fill out their campaign finance reports on their phones.
Those are all the pre-primary reports filed by at-large candidates. No doubt more will be coming in as candidates discover they were supposed to file a report this week.
In District 1, City Councilmember Sharon Hightower, who is running for reelection, has not filed her pre-primary report. District 1 candidate Devin King hasn’t filed anything other than filing to run. He hasn’t filed a campaign organizational report, a mid-year report or a pre-primary report.
District 1 City Council candidate Paula Ritter-Lipscomb filed a threshold statement that she wouldn’t raise or spend over $1,000 so she didn’t have to file a report.
District 2 City Councilmember Goldie Wells, who was appointed in July to serve out the term of former City Councilmember Jamal Fox, has the advantage of being the incumbent and also having apparently raised the most money in her race.
Wells has raised $2,645, plus she had $125 in her account when this election cycle started. She has spent $1,835 and has $935 in her campaign account.
C.J. Brinson has raised $730, spent $468 and has $262 in his campaign account.
Former City Councilmember and current candidate Jim Kee did not have a pre-primary report on file.
There is more big money being raised in the District 5 City Council race, where a challenger, Tami Thurm, has raised more money than the incumbent City Councilmember Tony Wilkins, who happens to be the lone Republican on the council.
Thurm has raised $27,100, which at one time was considered a lot of money for a district council race. Thurm has spent $13,527 and has $13,573 in her campaign account.
Wilkins is not far behind. He had $15,499 in his campaign account when this election cycle started and has raised $10,775 so far this year, for a total of $26,274. Wilkins has spent $4,641 and has $21,633 in his campaign account.
There are two other candidates in the race, Tanner Lucas and Sal Leone. Both have filed threshold statements that they wouldn’t raise or spend more than $1,000, which pretty much eliminates any chance they have of being successful candidates in this race.
Leone is a perennial candidate and one thing you can say about him is that he never gives up.