With campaign frenzy underway in the county, potential candidates are lining up their supporters and stocking up their campaign chests for heated battles ahead.
At the top of the highly contested races for commission chairman and sheriff are incumbents entering the race with large financial pots.
According to the most recent campaign contribution and expenditure reports filed with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, Sheriff Jeff Wigington’s campaign reported $23,891 in funds, as of March 31. The majority of that came from leftover contributions to his previous campaign runs, which totaled $130,000 plus.
Commission Chairman and Democratic candidate Richard Oden’s campaign reported the second highest amount out of the local candidates with $13,441 in funds as of March 31. However, Oden’s campaign started actively raising and spending money for the 2012 primary earlier than most other candidates.
His campaign raised $4,825 and spent $2,190 in the most recent filing period from January to March.
In the last filing period, as of June 30, 2011, Oden’s campaign raised $7,852 and spent $14,959.
Oden received most of his contributions from individuals and business outside of the county. Only five donations came from the Conyers area: Sigman Bottle Shop, Cadasist Adjusting Firm LLC, Weldon & Associates LLC, Pristine Technology Solutions Inc. and Premier Crematory. Connection Consultants LLC provided $910 worth of consulting services, as well as internet, phone, rent and utilities.
More importantly, a $200 donation from Rockdale County NSP Coordinator Tanesha Lanier was refunded. Back in January, Lanier came under fire after a $16,000 raise was proposed to her salary. That proposal was ultimately denied.
Reports for Democrat Brian Jenkins did not appear online. Jenkins told the News he had submitted the report electronically by March 31 and is following up with the SOS office. He said he had about $800 in contributions from about nine individuals, with the highest contribution at $250, and no expenditures.
Republican Jason Hill follows closely behind Oden by a small margin with $12,505. One of his largest donations was $1,350 worth of website design and development from Solia Digital Media.
Ed Conway, the other Republican commission chair candidate, trails with $1,350.
Wigington received money from Political Action Committees, with his largest donation this year of $2,500 from the IBEW Local Union 613 PAC Fund. He also picked up an additional $250 from the North GA Trades PAC Fund. Both PACs are located in the same building in downtown Atlanta.
Rounding out the sheriff’s race are the Democratic candidates.
Eric Levett reported a $1,000 donation from his family-owned funeral business, Levett and Sons Funeral Home.
Donald Ferguson reported $281 as of March 31. Although he previously raised more than $15,000 in his last bid for sheriff, his campaign had only $81 on hand by December 2011. He contributed $3,250 to himself in this first quarter. His amended report was sent by postal mail and could not be accessed online at the time of publication but was available at the SOS office.
For the Commissioner Post I race, incumbent and Democrat Oz Nesbitt, Jr. leads the race with $5,864, including a corporate donation of $2,000 from Cornell McBride, President and CEO of hair preparation wholesaler McBride Research Laboratories Inc., as well as $1,000 from McBride’s wife Harriet. McBride also donated $3500 to Oden’s campaign, while his son, Cornell Jr., gave $250.
Nesbitt, like Oden, has received a majority of his contributions outside of the Conyers-Rockdale area. Currently, he has one contribution from Conyers.
Democrat Jerry Shepperd’s contributions total $1,525. Shepperd picked up donations from the Kia and Hyundai dealerships worth $500 a piece. His highest donation came from the IBEW PAC Fund for $1,500. He also received a PAC contribution of $250 from the North Georgia Building and Construction Trades Council. These are the same PAC contributors for Wigington’s campaign for Sheriff.
Democrat Winston McDonald did not file any reports, according to the Secretary of State’s website.
Republican Tom Harrison has about $4,992 in funds. Out of about $7,000 raised in this period, $2,000 came from himself and $2,500 came from his company Tom Harrison & Associates/About Conyers Magazine.
Republican Sam Smiley has about $2,364 in funding primarily from small contributions from private individuals. Smiley’s campaign is one of few that have not yet received donations from PACS, corporations or businesses.
The Clerk of Superior Court race for funds is tight between incumbent Democrat Ruth Wilson and challenger Republican Holly Bowie. Both are within a few hundred dollars of each other. Bowie edged above Wilson with a campaign chest of $1,650. Wilson reported $1,025 total from several private donors, including $200 from current state District 95 Rep. Pamela Dickerson.
Bowie picked up a $150 contribution from Conyers-based Chapar Firm LLC, whose attorney, Albert Chapar, donated $250 individually to Jason Hill’s Commissioner Chair campaign. Treasurer Jeff Reagan’s small business Reagan’s Pharmacy, donated another $150.
Bowie also received a $125 donation from bookkeeper and former elections board Republican member Lynn Brown of J. A. Brown Grading, Inc., whose husband Jonny Brown currently sits on the elections board. Lynn Brown also donated $125 to incumbent Chief Magistrate Judge Clarence Horne, Jr. and $150 to incumbent Sheriff Wigington’s campaign.
Chief Magistrate Judge incumbent Clarence “Rudy” Horne, Jr. reported $5,548 in contributions – about $2,000 less than challenger Phinia Aten. Horne’s contributions come mainly from private individuals. Wilson’s Body Shop Inc. tied with Covington-based attorney Mario Ninfo for the highest contribution at $250.
Aten has raised about $7,026 from a mix of attorneys, including several donations from the Conyers-based Roseberry & Washington firm, as well attorney Vernon Pitts of the Fulton County Public Defenders Office. Fulton County Superior Judge Bensonetta Lane gave $200. Her highest contributor was Aaron Frazier, a State Farm insurance agent in downtown Atlanta, with$1,000.
Neither candidate in the Probate Judge race has filed contribution reports.
Small business, local corporations and self-employed donors overwhelmingly contributed to Republican candidates for the Commission Chair, Commissioner Post 1, Sheriff, Superior Court Clerk, Chief Magistrate Judge and Probate Judge races.
A total of 29 small business/corporation/self-employed donors gave to Republican candidates versus 12 for Democrats. Republican candidates were given roughly $15,000 in donations compared to approximately $5,000 to Democrats.