The North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh. File photo by Angie Newsome/Carolina Public Press

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Not all campaigns for the General Assembly are created equal, at least in the eyes of deep-pocketed donors.

Campaign finance reports filed in July show some Western North Carolina legislative contests bringing in substantial sums, while others have attracted relatively little attention. The fundraising in some cases has been lopsided in favor of a certain candidate – including some who have no opposition. In other cases, the quest for dollars appears more even.

Carolina Public Press has analyzed the most recent wave of campaign reports, covering the period from March through June, looking at both donations and expenditures.

Money flows to Turner

At the top of the fundraising pile for the period from March to June is Rep. Brian Turner, D-Buncombe, who has raised almost $200,000 in his bid for a second term in the North Carolina House of Representatives.

His opponent, on the other hand, is going to owe the state money by the time the race is finished.

Turner, a first-term state representative, won his seat in 2014 in a contested, expensive race against then-Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe. This time around, Turner’s Republican opponent, Kay Olsen, dropped out of the race in July; the state has fined her campaign on multiple occasions for filing inadequate paperwork or not filing paperwork at all.

The State Board of Elections sent Olsen’s campaign a letter dated Aug. 30 that levied a fine of $500 for the failure to file campaign finance paperwork due July 12. The state has fined Olsen’s campaign at least two other times for similar infractions.

Turner, on the other hand, has raised more money during this election than any other sitting state politician in Western North Carolina. His campaign received nearly $190,000 through June 30, the end of the second quarter reporting period. Of that sum, almost 99 percent came from individual donations. According to a newspaper report at the time of his election in 2014, Turner had promised during that campaign not to accept money from political action committees. Rather than relying on PACs, his filings show $1,200 received from campaign committees during the most recent reporting cycle, from March 1 through the end of June — $500 each from committees representing state Reps. Greg Meyer and Darren Jackson and $200 from Rep. Ed Hanes’ committee.

Turner had a significant amount of cash on hand at the end of June, thanks to only $17,000 being spent during the reporting cycle. Filings show Turner spent almost $14,400 on operating expenses and $2,400 on in-kind contributions. The bulk of those operating expenditures went to Anderson Miller, Turner’s campaign manager, and Brad Kennedy, a Raleigh-based fundraising consultant who also serves as campaign manager for Democrat Dan Blue III, a candidate for state treasurer.

Turner’s largest individual donors were James and Pamela Turner ($5,000 each), Workplace Options CEO Dean Debnam ($5,100), Replacements CEO Robert L. Page ($4,600), PVC CEO Mack B. Pearsall ($3,500) and Steelcase chairman Robert Pew ($2,500).

Van Duyn facing Libertarian

State Sen. Terry Van Duyn, D-Buncombe, is also raising significant sums. But her opponent, Libertarian William Meredith, appears not to have raised any money; that state is fining him for not filing proper campaign finance paperwork.

Van Duyn raised almost $150,000 during this election cycle and received nearly $90,000 from March through June. Around $132,000 of that sum came from individual donors and $15,000 from political action committees. Van Duyn has a significant war chest headed into the final months before November’s election, with more than $70,000 cash on hand at the end of June.

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Van Duyn’s committee support came from the Anesthesia WNC PAC ($1,000), Bayda PAC ($500), Caroline Sullivan for Wake ($500), Cigna Corporation PAC ($500), Credit Union PAC ($250), NC Chiropractic Association PAC ($200), NC Realtors PAC ($1,000) and Planned Parenthood PAC ($1,500).

Van Duyn spent more than $30,000 in the second quarter, with the majority of expenses going toward staff salaries and fundraising consulting with Blue Wave Political Partners, a Seattle-based organization that specializes in fundraising and compliance.

Competitive fundraising

One of the tightest WNC races in terms of fundraising, is between Ashe County Republican Rep. Jonathan Jordan, whose district also includes Watauga County, and his Democratic opponent, Sue Counts. Jordan raised $75,000 during this election cycle, Counts received just under $60,000. Jordan, a Jefferson-based attorney, defeated Counts in the 2014 election by a little more than 1,500 votes.

Jordan’s campaign brought in almost $12,000 from March through June, but he spent more than $45,000 on operating expenditures during the same time period. Jordan’s largest expense was a $32,500 payment on March 29 to Red Dome Group, a Cornelius campaign and political consulting firm.

Counts is headed into the final months of the campaign with almost $40,000, having spent a little more than $15,000 in operating expenditures from March through June. The majority of Counts’ receipts came from donations of less than $500, though her biggest individual donation was $5,000 from Salisbury philanthropist Fred Stanback. Records show most of Counts’ expenditures went toward staff salaries and campaign supplies.

Waynesville resident Jane Hipps occupies the uncommon position of a challenger who has raised significantly more money than the incumbent she opposes, Sen. Jim Davis R-Macon. The 50th District in which they are competing is one of the state’s most geographically sprawling districts, including Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain, Graham, Clay and Cherokee counties.

Hipps’ campaign has received more than $188,000 during this election. Davis has received less than $30,000. Hipps, like most other challengers, received most of her support from individuals.

As of June 30, Hipps had almost $145,000 to spend in the months leading up to November’s election. Records show her largest expense was more than $30,000 paid to Hayesville resident Julia Buckner in consulting fees.

Records show Davis had a little more than $7,000 on had after the latest reporting cycle. His largest expenses, other than a $15,000 donation to the NC Republican Senate Caucus, was $2,000 paid to Donald Swanson, his campaign treasurer.

Campaigns and cash

Following is a breakdown of the reported finances for each General Assembly candidate in Western North Carolina, based on their July filings. The next filings will be due just before Election Day in November.

N.C. HOUSE

District 85 (Avery, McDowell, Mitchell)

  • Josh Dobson, R (incumbent) – Receipts: $12,650. Expenditures: $16,800.

District 86 (Burke)

  • Hugh Blackwell, R (incumbent) – Receipts: $77,710.61. Expenditures: $9,654.68.
  • Tim Barnsback, D – Receipts: $10,986.93. Expenditures: $12,930.88.

District 93 (Ashe, Watauga)

  • Jonathan Jordan, R (incumbent) – Receipts: $11,724.42. Expenditures: $45,795.22.
  • Sue Counts, D – Receipts: $42,313.18. Expenditures: $15,330.20.

District 112 (Burke, Rutherford)

  • Ben Edwards, U – Receipts: $1,590. Expenditures: $664.77
  • David Rogers, R – Receipts: 0. Expenditures: 0.

District 113 (Henderson, Polk, Transylvania)

  • Maureen Copelof, D – Receipts: $23,293. Expenditures: $3,976.48.
  • Cody Henson, R – Receipts: $8,298. Expenditures: $4,490.31.

District 114 (Buncombe)

  • Susan Fisher, D (incumbent) – Receipts: $31,895. Expenditures: $15,777.84.

District 115 (Buncombe)

  • John Ager, D (incumbent) – Receipts: $90,481.12. Expenditures: $20,259.33.
  • Frank Moretz, R – Receipts: $11,063.09. Expenditures: $39,492.11.

District 116 (Buncombe)

  • Brian Turner, D (incumbent) – Receipts: $76,639.89. Expenditures: $16,973.28.
  • Kay Olsen – N/A. Dropped out of race.

District 117 (Henderson)

  • Chuck McGrady, R (incumbent) – Receipts: $9,070.41. Expenditures: $4,498.58.

District 118 (Haywood, Madison, Yancey)

  • Michele Presnell, R (incumbent) – Receipts: $10,800. Expenditures: $1,622.27.
  • Rhonda Schandevel, D – Receipts: $58,457.04. Expenditures: $34,060.68.

District 119 (Haywood, Jackson, Swain)

  • Joe Sam Queen, D (incumbent) – Receipts: $1,700. Expenditures: $197.41.
  • Mike Clampitt, R – Receipts: $970. Expenditures: $399.84.

District 120 (Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon)

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  • Kevin Corbin, R – Receipts: $3,557.21. Expenditures: $6,980.17.
  • Randy Hogsed, D – Receipts: 0. Expenditures: 0.

N.C. SENATE

District 45 (Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Watauga)

  • Deanna Ballard, R (incumbent) – Receipts: $19,325. Expenditures: $15,869.73.
  • Art Sherwood, D – Receipts: $29,995.99. Expenditures: $7,014.39.

District 46 (Burke, Cleveland)

  • Warren Daniel, R (incumbent) – Receipts: $4,300. Expenditures: $3,227.37.
  • Anne Fischer, D – Receipts: $335. Expenditures: N/A

District 47 (Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Yancey)

  • Ralph Hise, R (incumbent) – Receipts: $26,968.88. Expenditures: $16,160.46.
  • Mary Jane Boyd, D – Receipts: $1,478.44. Expenditures: $2,094.68.

District 48 (Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania)

  • Chuck Edwards, R (incumbent) – Receipts: $19,424.41. Expenditures: $31,221.33.
  • Norman Bossert, D – Receipts: $9,431. Expenditures: $4,680.23.

District 49 (Buncombe)

  • Terry Van Duyn, D (incumbent) – Receipts: $87,399. Expenditures: $51,032.19.
  • William Meredith, L – Receipts: 0. Expenditures: 0.

District 50 (Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain)

  • Jim Davis, R (incumbent) – Receipts: $7,345. Expenditures: $14,998.06.
  • Jane Hipps, D – Receipts: $79,471.31. Expenditures: $19,872.49.

Michael Gebelein

Michael Gebelein was an investigative reporter with Carolina Public Press. To contact Carolina Public Press, email info@carolinapublicpress.org or call 828-774-5290.

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