Weekly Hammer: It’s All About Money In 6th District Race
As much as people hate to admit it, politics is about money. The candidate who raises and spends the most money usually wins, and the campaign finance reports for the 6th Congressional District race through Dec. 31, 2013 are in, which gives us an early look at how the campaigns are fairing, even before anyone files to run, because filing doesn’t open until next week.
One thing seems certain – the race is not going to be as expensive as it was touted last year. Political pundits last year were saying that it would take $1 million to $1.5 million to win the seat. The reports are through the end of December, so candidates have no doubt raised additional money, but you would expect in this race that if someone could raise $1 million they would be well on their way, just to establish that they are the front runner. The race is likely to come down to the candidates who raise and spend the most money, but it is not quite as easy to figure out as you would think, and it appears that final number is going to be much lower than first predicted.
Rev. Mark Walker has been in the race the longest and has raised more money than anyone else – but he has also spent a whale of a lot more than anyone else. Walker has raised about $129,500 but he has spent $120,200, so he has $9,200 in available cash. The candidates are getting into the season where they need to start advertising. Going into the final three months with $9,200 in the bank is not where you want to be.
Walker does have an advantage – he can get 200 or 300 people to show up at a campaign event, and he did it Tuesday night, Feb. 4, which was cold and rainy – the kind of night no one wants to go out on.
Walker constantly says that he is running a grassroots campaign, but running a grassroots campaign and spending more money than anybody else sounds like a contradiction. Grassroots campaigns are what candidates who don’t have any money say they are doing.
Rockingham District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. has raised $117,600 and has only spent $3,700, so he started 2014 with $113,900 in the bank. Berger and his campaign manager Dallas Woodhouse reached a parting of the ways last year, which no doubt saved Berger some money.
Bruce VonCannon has raised a total of $105,600, and he has spent $74,400, so he has $31,200 in the bank. VonCannon has loaned his campaign $67,200 and raised $38,400. And it is obvious where he has spent his money. VonCannon has commercials running on television and radio. VonCannon is a native of Asheboro but he just moved back to the US after working abroad for over 30 years, so he was lacking in name recognition. However, after spending some money on commercials, he may have the best name recognition of any candidate at the moment.
City Councilmember Zack Matheny has raised $40,400, and he has only spent $1,700, so he has $38,600 on hand, or did at the end of 2013. Matheny had hoped he could raise $100,000 by the end of the year when this reporting period ended. He has fallen well short of that goal, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t raise more money. However, you have to consider that most candidates raise the easy money first. They call people who they know will donate – friends, family and people who have supported them in the past. After the first round, fundraising generally gets harder.
However, if you look at Matheny and VonCannon, both have raised about the same amount in donations, but VonCannon’s campaign has much higher visibility because he loaned his campaign over $67,200 and spent a bunch on TV and radio commercials. The 6th District includes parts of 10 counties, from Granville on the east to Surry on the west. It’s a big area and candidates are going to have to depend on the media to get their message out to the voters.
A problem candidates who haven’t raised $100,000 or more are going to start facing is getting contributions to a campaign that is not seen as one of the front-runners. It’s hard to convince potential donors to give money to your campaign to buy buttons and yard signs when your opponent is running television commercials night and day and has a billboard on every corner.
The most curious candidate is Don Webb of High Point. Other candidates have started showing up anytime more than three Republicans are gathered in one spot, but not Webb. He did attend the Conservatives for Guilford County (C4gc) forum but he has not attended a number of the other Republican events with the other 6th District candidates.
However, Webb has spent some money. He has raised $21,400 and loaned his campaign $40,000 for a total of about $61,400. But what makes his campaign unusual is he has spent $61,400 and at the end of the year had $35 in cash on hand.
Webb has named former Guilford County Commissioner Steve Arnold as his campaign treasurer and hired Arnold’s company, SNDC LLC, to run the campaign. So far Webb has paid SNDC $32,600.
Of that money paid to SNDC, $15,700 was for salaries and $7,800 was for a get-out-the-vote campaign. Since the vote is not until May 6, it seems awfully early to be spending that kind of money on a get-out-the-vote campaign. He has certainly spent a lot more on salaries than most of his opponents.
VonCannon has made a name for himself by getting out in front with the television and radio advertising. These commercials have one purpose – to increase VonCannon’s name recognition. If he can get people to recognize his name, then he can tell them something about what he stands for, but name recognition has to come first.
Webb has spent more money than VonCannon but hasn’t been all over the airwaves like VonCannon. In this market $32,000 will buy a good bit of advertising, but Webb seems to be the stealth candidate in everything but spending. Most candidates want to get the biggest bang for their buck when it comes to campaign spending. Webb has spent a lot of money but it’s hard to see the results at this point in the race.
Guilford County Commissioner Jeff Phillips and Mike Causey, who both declared their intention to run in January, didn’t have to file a report since they weren’t candidates in 2013. But the campaign finance reports give you a good indication of how far behind these guys are starting out. Walker has already raised and spent over $100,000. Berger and VonCannon have raised over $100,000.
One problem, particularly for Phillips, is that people who might have supported him have already gotten behind another candidate. Both Walker and Phillips have been involved in C4gc and C4gc has already endorsed Walker. You have to assume that if Phillips had gotten in the race sooner he would have peeled off at least some of the members of C4gc who support Walker.
To most of us, May 6 seems a long way away. But to these candidates it is right around the corner and there isn’t nearly enough time to get everything done they need to do.
BY John Hammer
February 6, 2014
Looking for an Article?
©Copyright 2014 Snap Publications | 406 N. Eugene Street, Greensboro NC 27401 | P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro NC 27429 | (336) 763-4170