Candidate spending leaps ahead|Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment in an occasional series on campaign finance.

Published 11:26 am Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Staff Writer

A number of local candidates have exceeded a $1,000 campaign-reporting threshold in an increasingly expensive dash for primacy ahead of the May 4 primary election.
Judicial hopeful Sonia Privette had raised $10,000 through her committee as of Feb. 8, according to a filing available online at the State Board of Elections’ Web site.
It appears that Privette has been able to raise more money since filing her previous report.
Privette bought $10,110 in air time for a campaign commercial set to run from April 13 to May 3 on WITN-TV, public records showed.
In addition, she bought a $1,000 Internet spot on WITN’s Web site to run for the same amount of time, according to the station, which provided the records.
Reportedly, the only other candidate to buy air time on WITN recently is U.S. Senate aspirant Cal Cunningham of Lexington.
Cunningham bought $6,482 in air time for the week of April 13, and $9,995 for the week of April 20.
The entirety of the funds raised by Privette came from individuals, the February report indicates.
Privette listed operating expenditures of $5,000 for Web design and hosting, printing banners, cards and yard signs.
She had $5,000 left on hand as of the last filing date, but that amount doesn’t reflect the money she has raised since February.
In an interview on Monday, Privette said she was still compiling information for her next campaign report. She estimated that, in total, she has raised between $25,000 and $30,000 for her election effort to date.
“Obviously, running a campaign in five counties is expensive, and you’re trying to reach as many people as possible with your message so that the voters know about you,” she said.
Privette added, “It costs money to get your message out within a large geographical area. And when you’re talking five counties, what are those means? TV, newspapers, some radio, as well as other things like mailings and personal appearances.”
Privette is one of four people seeking nomination to run for the District Court seat held by retiring Judge Sam Grimes.
The other competing office-seekers are Washington attorneys Watsi Sutton and Darrell Cayton Jr. and Jonathan Jones, an assistant district attorney and a Washington resident.
These four candidates are vying in the 2nd Judicial District, which encompasses Hyde, Martin, Tyrrell, Beaufort and Washington counties.
Cayton listed $3,800 cash on hand at the close of the reporting period. All of his campaign money was derived from individual contributions.
Sutton and Jones appeared to have raised minimal amounts.
It was unclear whether Jones, Cayton and Sutton had raised more cash than the last available reports showed.
The next quarterly campaign reports are due on April 26. These reports are due from all candidates — local, judicial, legislative, and others — in the state who raised over $1,000.
As of Monday, the only Beaufort County commissioner candidate to cross the $1,000 reporting threshold was Jerry Evans, a Washington Democrat.
In a report filed Monday, Evans showed a $50 contribution from one person and $750 in collective contributions from individuals.
Evans, a Realtor, got a $2,000 check from the North Carolina Realtors Political Action Committee, which advocates for causes espoused by the N.C. Association of Realtors.
The PAC has a Greensboro address.
Evans had total receipts of $2,800.
He reported $560.59 in operating expenditures. His campaign expenditures included business cards and post cards, yard signs and checks.
Evans said the Realtors PAC supports state, local and federal candidates. He said he applied to receive money from the PAC’s candidate fund. He added that, as a member of the Realtors group, he’s been paying into the fund for 20 or 30 years.
“It’s not like it’s a freebie,” he said.
Evans said he hadn’t planned on having to take part in a primary, and noted that the money he has raised will help him buy more signs and boost name recognition.
He said he’s not an incumbent and needs to get his name before the public.
Told that he’s the only commissioner candidate to break through the $1,000 ceiling as of Monday, Evans indicated that others will catch up soon.
“I think there will be some changes when the next reports come out,” he said.
Under state law, each North Carolina candidate who raises more than $1,000 must file detailed reports.
Individual contributions of $50 or less are listed as aggregated contributions, and the contributors aren’t named in the reports. Donated amounts over $50 must be listed along with the giver’s name, date of contribution, address and occupation, according to the Beaufort County Board of Elections.
An individual may not give more than $4,000 to a single candidate in a given election.
There had been no change in the reports filed by state Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare, or state Rep. Arthur Williams, D-Beaufort, as of Monday.
Williams and Basnight, both of whom represent Beaufort County, filed year-end semi-annual reports that were due Jan. 29.
Basnight raised more than $1.7 million in 2008, and generally exceeds the million-dollar mark when running for re-election.
Williams had more than $100,000 cash on hand as of January. He is expected to raise more money as the campaign progresses.
Bill Cook, Williams’ Republican opponent, hadn’t filed a report at last examination.
Hood Richardson, Basnight’s Republican opponent, reported total receipts of $407.
Richardson’s one $207 expenditure was for a filing fee.
Staff Writer Betty Mitchell Gray and Community Editor Greg Katski contributed to this report.