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Who financed campaigns for Greensboro City Council?

by Jordan Green

Well-heeled donors poured thousands of dollars into campaign contributions to candidates for Greensboro City Council this past year.

Employees of Replacements Limited, primarily founder and CEO Bob Page, backed successful candidates in this left-leaning cycle, including Mayor-elect Robbie Perkins; at-large candidates Yvonne Johnson, Nancy Vaughan and Marikay Abuzuaiter; along with Nancy Hoffmann and Zack Matheny, respectively the prevailing contestants in districts 4 and 3. A political action committee controlled by officers of the Greensboro company whose purpose is to influence the election of candidates that support the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens enhanced the impact of the financial backing by publicizing endorsements for favored candidates. Among the candidates whose campaigns were financially supported by Replacements employees, only at-large contender Wayne Abraham did not win his race.

Candidates supported by father and son Bill Kotis and Marty Kotis, respectively the founder and president of Kotis Properties, experienced more mixed results. The Kotises backed mayoral incumbent Bill Knight over Perkins, who was favored to win early in the race. Bill Kotis also supported at-large incumbent Danny Thompson, who was narrowly edged out by Abuzuaiter. Both defeated incumbents were part of a conservative faction that inspired a liberal backlash. Marty Kotis contributed $2,500 to the campaign of unsuccessful District 1 challenger Donnell “DJ” Hardy, while his father donated free office space for the campaign, valued at $1,500.

But Marty Kotis backed to moderate candidates, Vaughan and District 2 incumbent Jim Kee, who each prevailed in their races. Kotis contributed $3,500 to Kee’s campaign. Kee, who is also a developer, told voters he worked with Kotis’ real estate company to open a cafeteria and medical center in northeast Greensboro that together created almost 100 jobs.

In some cases, campaign expenditures correlated positively with electoral results, although final reports for the cycle showing receipts and expenditures for the final week before the election have not yet been filed. Reports indicate that Perkins, Johnson, Kee, Matheny and Hoffmann out-raised and out-spent their opponents before prevailing at the polls. All candidates except for Hoffmann, who unseated incumbent Mary Rakestraw in District 4, won by such substantial margins that it appears unlikely that money played the decisive role.

“If you have a bad candidate, no amount of money is going to get him elected,” said Nick DiVitci, a political consultant who has worked in past campaigns for Guilford County Commissioner John Parks and Greensboro City Council candidate Joel Landau. “There are quirks like the tea-party quirk [in 2009]. The money difference comes when there are candidates that are in the same ballpark.

“In this election I observed that Nancy Hoffmann used billboards,” he added. “Apparently, that must have given the small push that she needed to get the additional votes to become victorious.”

Abuzuaiter and Bellamy-Small were notable exceptions to the pattern. Abuzuaiter spent $1,376 as of the most recent report, prevailing over opponents who spent three to 15 times as much money.

Abuzuaiter worked hard during the campaign and her unyielding stance against reopening the White Street Landfill appears to have strongly resonated with voters who mobilized around that issue. Former Mayor Keith Holliday has said that Abuzuaiter’s candidacy benefited from the fact that many voters know her from years running Mahi’s Seafood Restaurant. It was her third attempt at the at-large seat.

“I don’t think you can deny that having run two times that she has gained a lot of name recognition,” DiVitci said.

Bellamy-Small easily won reelection despite raising only $2,400, a pittance compared to the roughly $10,000 raised and spent by Hardy. With a loyal constituency of older voters, Bellamy- Small has also proven that she doesn’t need endorsements from newspapers — the News & Record and YES! Weekly, for example, supported her opponent — to win reelection.

The Rhinoceros Times topped several candidates’ advertising budgets (YES! Weekly generally ranked far down the list). Thompson’s made his largest expenditure on television advertising with WFMY News 2, while Johnson concentrated on billboard advertising.

“Some candidates spend a lot of money on general advertising when they really need to be spending money on contacting voters on a one-on-one basis,” DiVitci said, “be it by mailings or being present in public events — and I don’t mean just forums; everybody goes to candidate forums — being in other public events, but most importantly either by telephone calls or mailings to get their ideas across to voters.”

Robbie Perkins (mayoral victor) Total receipts: $63,114 Total expenditures: $60,929 Receipts $2,500: Peter Booras, Artesian Enterprises; Joseph M. Bryan Jr., Jayembe; Christopher T. Dunbar, Blue Ridge Residential LLC; DH Griffin Sr., DH Griffin; NC Realtors PAC $2,000: William L. Cassell, WLC LLC; John N. Foster Jr., Rockford International; Robert L. Page, Replacements Limited $1,250: Kathryn S. Long; Robert E. Long Jr., financier $1,000: Roy E. Carroll, Carroll Companies; David F. Couch, Blue Ridge Companies; Drive Committee (Teamsters); Oliver Morris Lloyd; Michael Murray, Berkley Hall Companies; Sylvia L. Samet $500: Charles M. Broadway, Spartan Forest Products; Randall Kaplan, Capsule Group; Neil W. Koonce, International Textile Group; Kathy E. Manning; James F. Marshall, Lindbrook Development; Misty Melinda McCall, Genuity Concepts; Bhupendra Patel, BPR Properties; Pressley A. Ridgill, NewBridge Bank; Freddie H. Robinson, Bernard Robinson; Gladys S. Sears; Kenan C. Wright, NewBridge Bank Receipts, by employer $2,300: Replacements Limited $1,000: NewBridge Bank $850: Brooks Pierce law firm; Donald E. Linder, developer $625: International Textile Group $500: Dick Broadcasting, Nexsen Pruet law firm; Samet Corp. Expenditures $34,778: Harris Partners (campaign management) $8,202: Arrowhead Graphics (signs) $3,000: Simkins PAC (mailing) $2,750: Joann Tillman (catering) $2,351: WFMY TV (advertising) $1,500: News & Record (advertising) $1,103: Tech Triad (web design, Spanish translation) $1,067: Le Bleu Private Label (water bottles and labels) $1,000: Greensboro Times (advertising) $759: Media Corp. (voter reports) $750: Steve Cash (photography) $659: Carolina Peacemaker (advertising) $610: Rhinoceros Times (advertising) $589: YES! Weekly (advertising) Bill Knight (mayoral, defeated) Total receipts: $36,471 Total expenditures: $33,408 Receipts $2,325: Michael Schlosser, Schlosser & Pritchett law firm $1,500: Steven Bell, Bell Partners; Marty Kotis, Kotis Properties $1,027: Mary Fisher $1,000: Michael Haley; Bill Kotis, Kotis Properties; Sharp Pencil PAC (Howard Coble) $850: Greensboro Landlords Association $800: James Lewis $600: Lenwood Dennis, Dennis Insurance Group $500: Emilio Bontempo; Sidney Campbell, certified public accountant; Howard Coble, US Congress; Robert Garnett; Dr. Joseph Guarino; Robert Hunt, Illuminating Technologies; Philip Johnson, certified public accountant; W. Eugene Johnston; Janet Lee; Philip Lucado, American Industrial Contractors; Thomas Mincher, Battleground Restaurants; Betty Nichols; Phil Proctor, Battleground Restaurants; T. David Pulliam, Guilford Plumbing Supply; Howard Willliams, Brooks Pierce law firm Receipts, by employer $2,500: Howard Coble (as an individual and through his political committee), Kotis Properties $1,000: Battleground Restaurants Expenditures $11,045: Rhinoceros Times (advertising) $4,200: Van’s Advertising Items, Signs & Printing (signs) $3,835: Compulis (Bill Burckley) (consulting) $2,711: US Postal Service (postage) $1,857: Kayrod Printing (postcards) $575: WFMY News 2 (advertising) $563: Coach Mkay Companies (presentation coaching; owned by Merikay Tillman) Yvonne Johnson (at-large victor) Total receipts: $28,659 Total expenditures: $23,357 Receipts $1,250: Triad Good Government PAC $1,000: Greensboro Real Estate Association, Florence L. Snider $500: Drive Committee (Teamsters); Robert L. Page, chairman and CEO, Replacements Limited; JN Smith; James Smith Expenditures $2,865: Fairway Outdoor Advertising (billboard) $2,722: Arrowhead Graphics (yard signs and bumper stickers) $2,028: Latitude 36 (T-shirts and hats) $1,417: Pepper Moon Catering (catering) $546: Arrowhead Graphics (yard signs) Nancy Vaughan (at-large victor) Total receipts: $14,308 Total expenditures: $4,001 Receipts $1,000: Joseph M. Bryan Jr., Jayembe; Marty Kotis, Kotis Properties; NC Realtors PAC; Robert L. Page, Replacements Limited $500: Frank Auman, Signature Properties; David W. Stedman; Triad Good Government PAC Expenditures $1,993: Patriot Signs (signs) $700: Create-A-Cake Catering (catering) $540: Greensboro Times (advertising) Marikay Abuzuaiter (at-large victor) Total receipts: $3,544 Total expenditures: $1,376 Receipts $500: Dale Frederiksen, Replacements Limited; Robert L. Page, Replacements Limited Receipts, by employer $1,000: Replacements Limited Expenditures $808: Van’s Advertising Items, Signs & Printing (signs) Chris Lawyer (at large, defeated) Total receipts: $6,952 Total expenditures: $5,892 Receipts $550: James Presson $500: Howard Auman, Signature Properties; Dr. Joe Zammit, Baptist Hospital Expenditures $1,620: Rhinoceros Times (advertising) $1,259: Van’s Advertising (yard signs) $1,137: Arrowhead Graphics (bumper stickers and magnets) Danny Thompson (at large, defeated) Total receipts: $15,115 Total expenditures: $7,302 Receipts $2,500: DH Griffin Sr., DH Griffin $1,000: Bill Kotis, Kotis Properties $500: Doug Adkins, Dr. Joseph Guarino, Piedmont Occupational and Urgent Care; David Hayes, Western Carolina Forklift; Eugene Johnston Receipts, by employer $2,750: DH Griffin Expenditures $5,407: WFMY News 2 (advertising) $1,470: Rhinoceros Times (advertising) Wayne Abraham (at large, defeated) Total receipts: $31,543 Total expenditures: $30,503 Receipts $500: Ronald P. Johnson, Johnson, Peddrick and McDonald law firm; Christina Miller, Tecumseh Products; Thomas L. Miller, Tecumseh Products; Robert L. Page, Replacements Limited; Charlie Southern, Allen-Tate Realtors Receipts, by employer $1,000: Tecumseh Products Expenditures $9,314: Chris Church (mailers) $7,542: Broach & Co. (photos, website, cards, envelopes and stamps) $525: Spring Wireless Dianne Bellamy-Small (District 1 victor) Total receipts: $2,400 Total expenditures: $692 Receipts $500: James Smith, restaurateur Donnell “DJ” Hardy (District 1, defeated) Total receipts: $10,879 Total expenditures: $10,701 Receipts $2,500: Marty Kotis, Kotis Properties $1,500: Bill Kotis, Kotis Properties Expenditures $1,613: Debit card charges (food) $993: My Campaign Store (yard signs) $784: Office Depot (labels, stamps and envelopes) $697: University Print and Graphics (flyers, business cards and palm cards) $600: Waterford (venue for fundraiser) Jim Kee (District 2 victor) Total receipts: $6,565 Total expenditures: $4,217 Receipts $3,500: Marty Kotis, Kotis Properties $1,000: John R. Rodenbough, Rodenbough Medical Service $500: Avery B. Green, Green Nursery; James Lawson, Lawson & Associates; NC Realtors PAC Receipts, by employer $600: NAI Piedmont Triad Expenditures $3,060: Arrowhead Graphics (signs) $1,477: Jessica Foster-Bragg (reimbursement for expenses) $581: Greensboro Times (advertising) $500: Guilford County Democratic Party (banquet sponsor) C. Bradley Hunt II (District 2, defeated) * No reported receipts or expenditures Zack Matheny (District 3 victor) Total receipts: $17,900 Total expenditures: $7,567 Receipts $500: Jason Harris, Furniture Land South; Murray Kessler, Lorillard; NC Realtors PAC; Robert Page, Replacements Limited; Michael Shannon, Lorillard Receipts, by employer $1,000: Lorillard $700: Furniture Land South Expenditures $2,900: Rhinoceros Times (advertising) $2,000: Fairway Outdoor Advertising (billboards) Jay Ovittore (District 3, defeated) Total receipts: $366 Total expenditures: $25 Nancy Hoffmann (District 4 victor) Total receipts: $37,231 Total expenditures: $35,210 Receipts $5,000: Frances Atherton, Thomas Baker; Elaine Fairey, Koa Pharmaceuticals $3,000: Jack Hoffmann $1,500: Dale Frederiksen, Replacements Limited $750: Robert L. Page, Replacements Limited $675: Judith Howle $700: Ronnie Jones, Baker Roofing $500: Bob Kollar; Sally Cone; Thomas Sloan Receipts, by employer $2,250: Replacements Limited Expenditures $8,115: Fairway Outdoor Advertising (billboards) $5,720: Printery (postcards, stickers and envelopes) $4,800: Fox 8 WGHP (advertising) $3,258: Lauren Jeffries (campaign management) $2,936: Graham Sheridan (campaign management) $1,840: WFMY News 2 (advertising) $1,470: Rhinoceros Times (advertising) $1,000: Mark Bochkis (campaign management) $750: US Postal Service $750: Time Warner Cable $589: YES! Weekly (advertising) Mary Rakestraw (District 4, defeated) Total receipts: $14,356 Total expenditures: $12,064 Receipts $1,000: Aldona Wos $700: Greensboro Landlords Association $500: Frank Auman, Signature Properties; DH Griffin, DH Griffin; Dr. Joseph Guarino, Piedmont Occupational and Urgent Care Expenditures $5,155: Frank P. Rakestraw (reimbursement for mail service ads and robo-calls) $2,100: Kayrod Printing $1,755: Rhinoceros Times (advertising) $971: US Postal Service $882: Compulis (Bill Burckley) (labels) Trudy Wade (District 5 victor) Total receipts: $5,944 Total expenditures: $2,267 Receipts $500: Frank Auman, Signature Properties; David C. Hayes, Hayes Investments Expenditures $945: Rhinoceros Times (advertising) Jorge Cornell (District 5, defeated) Total receipts: $180 Total expenditures: $317

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