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Campaign finance reports tell interesting stories

by Eric Ginsburg

 eric@yesweekly.com

Replacements, Ltd. Owner Robert Page can’t be very happy about the lack of return on his investment. Despite sinking $4,000 — the maximum amount — into the campaigns of Democrats Kirk Perkins and Paul Gibson, both were defeated by Republican newcomers in their Guilford County Commission races last week. Page also gave $1,000 to Democrat Myra Slone, who was defeated by Trudy Wade for NC Senate District 27. Yet Page’s choice for school board at large, Sandra Alexander, did win re-election, though the race was nonpartisan and Page only donated $100.

Perkins and Linda Kellerman were defeated in their commission races by nearly 2,000 votes, respectively garnering 47.3 and 46.9 percent of the ballots cast in their races. With 17 out of 23 precincts in District 5 reporting, Gibson and his staunchly conservative challenger, Jeff Phillips, were within 13 votes, with Phillips pulling away by 755 when all the ballots were counted.

Unlike other candidates in local races, Phillips received substantial support from the NC Republican Party, which sent out a barrage of mailers repeatedly hitting the same voters and likely contributing to his victory. The expenditures were not listed under Phillips’ name but multiple independent voters received mailers paid for by the party, bashing Gibson and supporting Phillips.

The NC GOP did not respond to an e-mail request for comment and the only phone number listed on its website is not in service.

Republican Phil Berger, who successfully ran for reelection to NC Senate district 26, was featured on some of the mailers alongside Phillips. The state party reported spending $5,500 on research for Berger as well as $2,700 on a fundraising letters for him and $1,005 for postage on the letters. It is unclear if these funds cover part of the expenditures on Phillips behalf, but many of the NC GOP’s mailers for Phillips or against Gibson did not mention Berger.

The state party received much of its funds from Republican candidates throughout the state as well as $20,500 from Waste Industries CEO Lonnie Poole. Wade’s reports list an in-kind contribution of $1,000 from the NC Republican Party for a direct mailer on Oct. 31, which is considered a coordinated campaign expense. Phillips did not list any donations, including in-kind contributions, from the state party, but isn’t required to if it was an independent expenditure by the state party that he was aware of after the fact.

Some political action committee money f lowed into local campaign chests. While taking sides in Guilford County Commission races, the NC Realtors PAC played both sides in the at-large school board race, giving $500 to both Alexander and challenger Pat Tillman. Democrat commissioners Gibson and Perkins received $900 and $1,000 respectively, and District 6 Republican victor Hank Henning got $750.

Wade, who is a veterinarian, received $1,750 from the NC Veterinary Medical Association PAC, $500 from the NC Voters for Animal Welfare PAC, $1,000 from Carolina Anesthesiology PAC from High Point and $500 from the International Paper PAC based in Washington DC, among others.

The Homebuilders Association PAC gave $100 to Phillips.

More significant donations came in from the Guilford County Republican Party and other similar groups like the Greater Greensboro Republican Women’s Club.

Phillips, Henning and Branson each received $1,000 from the Republican Women. The county GOP handed out $2,000 for Phillips and Branson while giving $1,000 to Henning, whose race was seen as less competitive. Tillman, who ran in the nonpartisan school board race but has worked with the county GOP, also received $2,000 as well as $500 from the Republican Women’s Club. Wade received $1,000 from the Republican Women’s Club, $500 from the county GOP, $1,000 from the NC Republican Party and $2,000 from the Committee to Elect Republican Women based in Kannapolis.

The Democrats gave most strongly to Slone, who lost to Wade, with $2,000 coming in from the NC Democratic Party, $1,100 from the Democratic Women of Guilford County and $250 from Democrat Brad Miller’s US Congressional campaign. Slone received $500 from Pricey Harrison, a Democrat with no challenger in her NC House race who also gave $250 Gibson.

Conservatives for Guilford County raised an impressive amount of money in the last election cycle. The committee brought in $43,885, mostly from individuals, and spent $41,702 to date, but only $8,298 of that was in the most recent cycle with very little of it directly affecting the election. The only recent direct support the organization gave a candidate was $1,875 to Jeremy Williams, who lost to Henning in his bid for the Republican slot for commission District 6.

Much of the recent expenditures went towards space rentals and food, as well as $600 for the NC Republican Party, $3,007 on postage and $1,200 for a Rhino Times insert. The group paid One Source Document Solutions $580 for a voter guide and invitations. The voter guide listed endorsements for “the most conservative candidates” including Mitt Romney, Branson, Phillips, Henning Wade, Tillman and others.

One Source Document Solutions Communications Director Elizabeth Smith gave $520 to the group and stood outside Lawndale Baptist Church for the majority of Election Day in support of conservative candidates like Phillips.

Jodi Riddleberger, who co-founded Conservatives for Guilford County, contributed more to the group than other listed donors with $940 on top of $540 from her husband Bret. Other large contributions came from blogging Dr. Joe Guarino, who kicked in $514, Joanne Lapple who gave $620 and $750 from James Lewis, which included $250 as an in-kind contribution of books, a f lag and a DVD.

Guilford County Conservatives was formed July 2 and filed with the state board of elections with the purpose of covering “GOTV expenses” and “PAC expenses.” The group raised a combined $875, coming from Theresa Yon, Don Wendelken, Guilford County Republican Party Chairman Al Bouldin and Fran Rafanovic. The organization spent $693 total on palm cards, signs and T-shirts.

The Guilford County Democratic Party didn’t support any competitive local candidates according to finance reports, but some voters received a call recorded by Greensboro Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson and paid for by the county party urging them to vote for Obama and a straight Democratic Party ticket, which would benefit local candidates. Almost double the number of Democrats voted straight party than Republicans, but it wasn’t enough to propel any locals to victory, though President Obama carried the county by a double-digit percentage.

After Slone, the Democratic Women contributed most generously to Perkins, giving him $600 while contributing only $150 to Gibson for his competitive race. The NC Democratic Party did not list exactly where expenditures went, listing many as a “coordinated party expenditure” to another candidate.

Kellerman’s third-quarter finances were not posted on the Guilford County Board of Elections website like other candidates. There were no donations to Kellerman’s campaign, except from the candidate.

While Gibson found little financial support from the Democratic groups, he received assistance from an unlikely source — conservative Commissioner Billy Yow, who donated $500 to Gibson’s campaign a week before the election. He also gave $500 to fellow Republican Branson.

Five Koury Corp. employees gave Gibson $100 each on the same day and several people including NC Sen. Don Vaughan donated $500. Gibson gave YES! Weekly a hard time during the election, confusing a donation from Publisher Charles Womack to Tony Wilkins in a Republican primary race in a different district for a contribution to Phillips. Gibson said the donation was unethical and jeopardized the paper’s balance, but his reports list a donation from Triad Business Journal Publisher Douglas Copeland of $150.

Gibson was able to draw donations across the aisle. Former Greensboro Mayor Bill Knight gave $100 while prominent Republican donor DH Griffin Sr. gave Gibson $1,500 and Henning $1,000. Griffin shelled out $5,000 to Wade’s campaign, which is legal because $4,000 was given before the primary and $1,000 before the general election. DH Griffin Jr. kicked in $3,500 to Wade, Donna Griffin contributed $1,700 and DH Griffin Wrecking Co. Vice President Melody London and DH Griffin Treasurer Benita Mitchell each gave Wade $1,000.

Families don’t always give in unison, however, as the Hayes family at Western Carolina Forklift showed. Owner Aleta Hayes contributed $1,000 to Perkins while CEO David Hayes gave his opponent, Branson, $500. David Hayes is listed as the CEO of Larocena Forklift and Hayes Investments, contributing a total of $2.500 to Wade’s campaign.

Wade also received major contributions from Guy M. Turner Inc. President Jimmy Clark, who gave $3,000; $1,451 and $1,899 from La-Z- Boy owner Arthur Clayton and his wife Jewell; $3,225 from developer Roy Carroll; $2,150 from Robert Formo; $9,825 from Karen and William Kotis III, mostly in the form of in-kind food donations; $1,500 from Dean Green; $1,000 from the Committee to Elect Danny Thompson and $2,000 from Terry Spence at A-1 Sand Lot.

Wade’s competitor Slone spent $15,746 compared to Wade’s $80,697. Slone has never held office and Wade has served on the county commission and city council, but Slone still received 44.4 percent of the vote. Wade dropped more than $44,500 with SNDC in High Point for newspaper ads and rent, as well as another $15,000 for “consulting, media, etc.”

Alexander, who received 94,286 votes to beat Tillman by around 7,500, raised twice as much as her opponent and spent nearly three times as much money. Several parts of her campaign reports were incomplete, such as a $79 credit card payment to an unlisted source for campaign buttons.

Alexander received her largest donations from Lavern and Robert Brown of High Point, who each gave $500. The Racial Equity Institute in Greensboro donated $100 to Alexander’s campaign. For-profit businesses are not allowed to give directly to campaigns, said Charlie Collicutt, the deputy director of the Guilford County board of elections. Fellow school board member Deena Hayes, who runs the institute with one other person, said the donation came from her.

“It’s a for-profit organization, so it can’t donate?” Hayes asked. “Why is that? It’s just a business…. It would have come from my portion of it.”

Collicutt said the state board of elections, which handles such issues, often allows the report to be amended and has the money returned and donated from a personal account instead, which Hayes said she realized she might need to do.

Perkins only raised $100 from individuals during the first portion of the election season, and Page’s $4,000 donation made up nearly half of all of the money he raised. Branson, who beat the incumbent Perkins in the district covering the eastern part of the county, raised a whopping $29,541 from individuals and spent $37,245, more than four times as much as Perkins.

Branson spent $4,692 for a campaign mailer and robocall and later $4,860 for mailers from the Washington Political Group. Other conservative candidates utilized the group too, with Tillman paying $833 for a robocall and Henning spending $2,025 on robocalls and $380 for mailers.

Branson received a significant amount of money from family members —$40,090 from his wife, $500 from E. Ray Branson, $600 from Pat Branson and $200 from family company bookkeeper Glenda Stout.

His largest individual outside donation came from Sedgefield Lawn and Garden owner Larry Proctor, who gave Branson and Henning each $1,000 and Wade $1,300. Branson’s campaign paid $1,000 to four individuals, including Pat Branson, for winning raffles at a fundraiser.

Phillips, who will join Branson and Henning on the county commission, raised less money from individuals than did Gibson — $10,892 compared to $19,645 from individuals — but was able to spend more — $35,925 over Gibson’s $20,693 — thanks to $25,000 he loaned his campaign.

Battleground Tires owner Alex Gardner donated $1,000, Phillips’ largest individual contribution, followed by Steven Bell of Bell Partner, who donated $500. Jodi Riddleberger and Guarino gave Phillips around $250.

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