Thousands raised by candidates|Former opponents differ on reasons for campaign cash

Published 3:55 am Thursday, November 12, 2009

Staff Writ

Former opponents differ on reasons for campaign cash
Staff Writer
Washington’s two leading mayoral candidates raised amounts of money comparable to the cash raised by some county-commissioner candidates, elections records show.
Recently updated campaign reports are available at the Beaufort County Board of Elections.
According to the as-yet-unaudited reports, the committee to elect winning Washington mayoral candidate Archie Jennings recorded $5,794 in total receipts.
The committee listed $5,533.91 in operating expenditures, and it had $260.09 cash on hand at the end of the reporting period.
Jennings also received support from the Concerned Citizens of Washington, a political-action committee.
The PAC listed total receipts of $860.52 and had operating expenditures of $750.18.
The committee to re-elect incumbent Mayor Judy Meier Jennette reported $4,396.47 in contributions from individuals.
The committee spent $3,744.19, and had $652.28 cash on hand at the end of the reporting period.
It appeared that the other two mayoral candidates, Mickey Cochran and Rick Gagliano, did not raise enough money to be required to file reports.
Robert Cayton, a Democratic Beaufort County commissioner, said he has raised and spent approximately the same amount as Jennings, or perhaps more, on his races.
Beaufort County-commissioner candidates run countywide and often have to face primary bouts as well as general elections, Cayton pointed out.
“I think you’ll find there is no consistency of what it costs for a county commissioner race,” he said. “If you’ve only got a one-issue candidate, then that’s not as serious, perhaps, of a challenge as a multi-issue candidate might be.”
Stan Deatherage, a Republican Beaufort County commissioner, said he has never spent more than $4,000 on his county contests.
He said his fundraising averages around $3,000 per race.
“And usually it’s my own money because I don’t have any special interest,” Deatherage said.
Reached for comment this week, Jennings and Jennette offered different views when asked if their campaign spending was unusual or part of a developing trend in city elections.
“My guess is that was strictly a byproduct of having a well-known incumbent and a fairly well-known challenger,” said Jennings, who has served nearly two terms on the City Council.
“If you look back over time, I don’t think that’s happened probably but once or twice in the last 20 years,” the mayor-elect said of the spending.
Jennette said she didn’t know what drove the higher-than-average levels of campaign funds, indicating that city-candidate fundraising has grown over the past two election cycles.
“I have no idea,” she said. “It’s been a trend for the council for two years in a row, so I guess it depends on who it inspires to push their agenda.”
Jennette added, “When special-interest groups have control of the city, it’s not necessarily a good thing, but I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes.”
Lists of campaign contributors reveal that Jennette and Jennings received monetary contributions from a wide array of individuals.
Jennette received a $100 contribution from Floyd Brothers and his wife, Muriel Brothers. Floyd Brothers is a former mayor of Washington.
Jennings received a $150 contribution from L. Stewart Rumley, the former Washington mayor who preceded Jennette in office.
Both candidates’ committees listed contributions from a number of area business leaders, mostly in amounts of $50 to $100.
Jennette’s campaign won the largest single contribution from an individual. She got a $2,000 contribution from local businessman Reggie Fountain.
Both candidates spent thousands to advertise on local radio stations and in local newspapers.
Jennings’ camp spent $1,539.56 on signs.
Jennette’s organization paid $840 for spots on a Washington radio station.
“I think after a while it’s not so much the money, it’s how you use it,” Jennings said.
Jennings expressed surprise at his constituents’ favorable response to a low-cost YouTube video posted on behalf of his campaign.
The video “actually got my message across better than a lot of the more traditional, costlier methods,” he said.
“Some of the things you do to demonstrate that you want the job,” Jennings commented. “I put signs in that category. The thing is, you need to do it. That’s a visible demonstration that you want the job, in my opinion.”
Both candidates related that many of their individual contributions were unsolicited.
“I was surprised at how many people just called and offered,” Jennette commented. “I didn’t really ask anybody. People just wanted to help, and I was humbled by people just calling and doing that.”
Jennings said he was honored when anyone thought enough of him to place a check in his hands.
“These are tough economic times, and that really just lifted my spirits,” he said.