Mayoral candidacy collapses as funds fail to materialize

by Jordan Green

Tammy Holyfield, a business consultant and political neophyte, announced her candidacy for mayor of High Point a day before filing opened in early July with an energetic, can-do message of reform and rebirth, joining a crowded field that included two veteran council members.

The campaign was supposed to be “bigger than life,” a former consultant recounted, with billboards, television, radio and newspaper advertising, and professional staff that would dwarf any mayoral effort in High Point in at least a decade.

But the campaign never quite got off the ground, and the candidate announced on Facebook last week that she could no longer “continue active campaigning” because of “a serious health issue” in her family. Despite plans to raise roughly $100,000, only about $2,000 has materialized. The consultant, Algenon Cash, claims to be owed $9,240 and has notified the state Board of Elections of possible campaign-finance violations.

Cash, a Winston-Salem businessman who manages the real estate investment company Wharton Gladden & Co. and provides consulting services to candidates as a sideline, said he is considering taking legal action against Holyfield to recoup the funds.

“This is about financial difficulties related to the campaign,” Cash said. “We clearly identified to her that for the kind of campaign that she wanted to run it was going to cost her $100,000.”

Cash said Holyfield assured him that she could loan the money to the campaign and that she was confident friends and family would pitch in to cover the costs.

A finance plan for the Holyfield campaign that Cash provided to YES! Weekly projects total expenses of $115,700, including $90,000 for “voter engagement,” broken out as advertising through television, billboards, newspapers and radio, with direct mailings, web and social media, get-out-the-vote efforts and shuttle vans.

The rupture between Holyfield and Cash represents, at the least, the collapse of an ambitious effort to set up a political force with a charismatic candidate and a dazzling media message by vastly outspending opponents who rely on traditional networks of church and business to gradually build voting bases. Adding to the audacity of her candidacy, she moved to High Point to become eligible only two days before filing. Previously, she said, she had lived just outside the city limits, adding that her son attended a private school in High Point and much of her business was conducted there. But if Cash is correct, the blowup represents something more — a pattern of duplicity by his client.

Cash said he recruited a business associate, Nishaka Proctor, to manage the campaign. He referred her to Mike Horn, a public-relations consultant, who came on as Holyfield’s communications director. The team assembled would have seemed to vault Holyfield from obscurity into the big leagues of Triad politics: Horn provided consulting services for Winston- Salem City Councilman James Taylor Jr.’s unsuccessful bid for state Senate earlier this year, and has provided campaign services for Mayor Allen Joines.

Joines holds the record among Triad mayors for total receipts, raising $100,089 for his 2005 reelection campaign in which he ran unopposed. Yvonne Johnson came close in 2007, raising $95,363 to win election as mayor of Greensboro. In comparison, High Point Mayor Becky Smothers has never raised or spent more than $20,000 in a handful of successful reelection campaigns over the past decade.

Cash said the Holyfield campaign represented his first foray into High Point elections. But he’s been active at the nexus of industry and politics regionally and across the state for the past five years. Although Cash’s business is based in Winston-Salem, he served on the board of directors of the Triad Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition, or TREBIC, a group representing primarily Greensboro and High Point companies that promotes industry interests in local and state government. Cash acted as a moderator at a Greensboro City Council candidate forum hosted by Conservatives for Guilford County at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in 2011. And he was recently appointed chairman and small-business ambassador for the NC Energy Forum, a group that promotes development of oil and natural gas in North Carolina.

“She said, ‘I want this thing to be bigger than life: I want billboards; I want radio,’” Cash recounted of an early meeting with Holyfield. “She gave us a big Christmas list. She continued to reassure us that money was going to be no object. Until July was the first time that we knew money was going to be a problem.”

Cash said he had presented invoices to Holyfield that eventually mounted to $9,240. At first, he said, Holyfield asked for more time and then quit taking his calls altogether. During a July 23 meeting with Horn and Holyfield, Cash said Holyfield told them that “she wanted to press the pause button on the campaign.”

“My response was, ‘If you were going to loan yourself $100,000, could you loan yourself $20,000 and get some of these invoices paid?’” Cash said. “We went from 100 mph to zero. Basically, I think we were being misled from the beginning. I don’t think she ever had the ability to loan $100,000 to her campaign. I don’t think she ever had the ability to raise money from friends and family.”

The candidate did not deny that she owes Cash money for his consulting services, and said her campaign “has been attempting to satisfy his concerns.”

Holyfield said her recent decision to stop actively campaigning came about because she has become preoccupied with caring for her elderly grandmother, who has been in poor health recently.

Cash said he is aware that Holyfield is taking care of her grandmother, but doesn’t believe that it is the real reason the campaign has been suspended.

“If this issue around her grandmother was the real issue,” Cash said, “we could have gone to Starbucks and talked about it. Wrote down some plans on a napkin and shook hands. I think the real reason she won’t call me back is because she’s not on the up and up.”

Holyfield responded, “I don’t think Mr. Cash is accurately representing any of that situation.”

Holyfield’s announcement came on the first day of early voting across the state, and her name will remain on the ballot. The other candidates are Bernita Sims and Chris Whitley, both veteran council members; Coy Williard, a prominent businessman and civic volunteer; and Matthew Fowler, a candidate who has remained virtually invisible throughout the campaign.

One of Holyfield’s supposed supporters, Cash said, was Nido Qubein, the president of High Point University, a prominent economic and political player in the city.

“I don’t believe some of the people who were supposed to endorse her — I heard Nido Qubein’s name many times — were ever going to endorse her. Later, I heard that Nido is backing Coy Williard. She got in over her head. And she had to find a way to get out of all this.”

Holyfield acknowledged the campaign has not turned out as she had hoped.

“I think everyone goes into a new venture with high expectations,” she said. “Like I said before, I do not believe that Mr. Cash is accurately representing the situation. It’s in our attorney’s hands. I will not speak against him. Because that’s just not my style. I’m going to have my attorney handle it. I’m going to keep my opinion out of the media as to his performance, and what he delivered and did not deliver. I’ve done nothing illegal. I’ve only tried to do good.”

Cash contacted the state Board of Elections last week to notify the agency of a potential campaign finance violation. The board of elections has assigned a compliance specialist to the matter, board employee Sheryll Allen Harris said.

Holyfield’s most recent report, received by the Guilford County Board of Elections on July 11, reflects one receipt — a loan for $500. Cash said the reports are clearly not true considering that Holyfield paid him a retainer of $2,250, which would have had to be reported as an expenditure.

She said the expenditure was made before she set up her campaign committee, that she has been in touch with the board of elections, and that the transactions will be accurately recorded in future reports.

Holyfield said she hopes to run for elective office in High Point again. That prospect, conveyed also in a High Point Enterprise article on Oct. 15, galled Cash.

“If ever I’m elected to any influential seat in the city of High Point, that budget will go through an all-out audit,” Holyfield told the High Point Enterprise. “We spend our money based on values, based on what’s important to us, but I see that you have expenditures that are based on the values of people out of touch with middle- and lower-income Americans, because these people can’t even pay their power bills.”

Cash’s reaction: “I think that’s a nightmare. If you can’t run a campaign budget, how can you run an entire city budget?”