Cook gets $16,000 from Popes

Published 5:36 pm Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Staff Writer

Conservative activist Art Pope and three members of his family have given $16,000 to a local Republican candidate for state House.
The contributions — $4,000 each — went to Bill Cook of the Cypress Landing community, the candidate confirmed Tuesday.
Cook is running against state Rep. Arthur Williams, D-Beaufort, of Washington.
Under state law, $4,000 is the maximum an individual may contribute to a candidate in a given election cycle.
Coupled with money from a Monday-night fundraiser in Greenville, the Popes’ contributions bring Cook’s campaign fundraising total to $43,000, according to the candidate.
“I think my message is getting out there,” Cook said. “I’m resonating with people. My conservative message is something they want to hear. They’re tired of the liberal, failed policies of my opponent and his party.”
Pope is president and vice chairman of Variety Wholesalers, according to Variety Stores, once known as Rose’s Stores, is owned by Variety Wholesalers, the company’s website reads.
A former state House member, Pope serves on the board of directors of the tea-party-allied Americans for Prosperity-North Carolina.
According to AFP’s website, Pope also serves on the board of the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank.
“We’ve been supporting Republican candidates over 20 years,” Pope told the Washington Daily News in an interview. “I personally think my family think that the current Democrat incumbents have governed the state very poorly.”
Asked whether he thinks Cook has a chance of winning, Pope replied, “I’m not simply betting on a horse race. I’m giving contributions to good candidates that I think will make good legislators.”
Cook’s campaign also has received $3,000 from state Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, R-Wake, the House minority leader.
This means that at least $19,000 of the $43,000 Cook said he has raised has come from leading GOP sources outside House District 6.
Cook still lags well behind Williams in funds raised.
Williams’ campaign committee had more than $121,000 cash on hand at the end of the second-quarter reporting period.
Though much of Williams’ money has come from individuals within the district, he also has accepted money from political action committees, including the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina PAC and the North Carolina Pork Council.
Third-quarter campaign reports aren’t due to the State Board of Elections until Oct. 25.
It was unclear how Williams would use his fundraising advantage to confront Cook.
Past voting trends and Williams’ fundraising clout have led local Democrats to predict his re-election, but that hasn’t stopped the GOP establishment from saying the incumbent is vulnerable to Cook’s assaults.
The Republicans base these claims largely on voting statistics that show District 6 leans to the right. Still, Williams has yet to face a significant challenge at the ballot box since his election in 2002.
Williams has consistently declined to comment on Cook’s candidacy.
“I don’t even know Bill Cook,” Williams said in an interview Monday.
Both candidates said they have met only in passing.
Political observers have speculated that Williams could use his cash to swamp Cook in late October by sending out direct mailers and taking out ads in the final days of the campaign.
Asked about the GOP’s apparent efforts to target Williams, a Democratic county commissioner said Republicans will “pull out all the stops” to try and gain control of the Legislature this year.
“I think the Republicans are going to do everything they can to take control of the North Carolina General Assembly, state Senate and state House,” said the Rev. Robert Cayton, a Beaufort County commissioner. “What’s at stake in this election is the next decade.”
Cayton referred to the legislative redistricting process scheduled to take place next year, when state lawmakers will redraw district maps.
The party in power in 2011 will have the greatest control over the reconfiguration of these maps, and the party out of power could see some of its members drawn out of their seats, if history is any judge.
“I think Mr. Williams is a very strong candidate,” Cayton commented. “I think that he is not vulnerable on an even playing field.”
The playing field will be defined by the issues — state, local, national — and the candidates themselves, he remarked.
“There are forces at work on a national level that will affect our local elections that we have no control over,” Cayton added.
As for Williams, he said, “He’s done a good job, he works hard, he listens to everybody he represents, every citizen. He does all he can for eastern North Carolina. So, no, he’s not vulnerable.”
For his part, Cook points to his growing campaign coffers as evidence of the support he’s garnering.
Speaking of Pope, he said, “He heard about (me) through the (House) caucus, I guess, in Raleigh and, I guess, he’s been following my race and thinks I’m a viable candidate.”