City Council candidates Derek Bickel and Felix Cooper raised less than $1,000.
Due at the beginning of the month, the 35-day campaign finance reports cover municipal candidates’ fundraising receipts in excess of $1,000 from July 1 through Sept. 24 and offer voters the first glimpse at the candidates’ fundraising abilities since the initial filing period began.
Wrightsville Beach Planning Board member and Board of Aldermen candidate Hank Miller III is leading the other three candidates for aldermen in funds raised for his campaign. Miller has raised $4,935 this election cycle from 15 different individuals from Wrightsville Beach, Wilmington, Raleigh, Cary and Goldsboro. The largest contribution of $1,000 came from William F. Morris III in Raleigh. Five other individuals each donated the second largest contribution amount of $500.
Of the remaining aldermen and mayoral candidates current Mayor Pro Tem Bill Sisson was the only other candidate to receive enough contributions to report with $1,310.01. However, the three donations made to the Committee to Elect Bill Sisson came from Sisson himself with the addition of one cent in interest from a bank account.
In the city council race, Skip Watkins was the highest-grossing candidate, raising more than $100 per day of his announced candidacy, and was the only council hopeful to break into five-digit figures by the 35-day reporting period deadline, with $10,023 raised.
Of Watkins’ total, $900 came from other political committees: $650 from county school board member Lisa Estep’s campaign committee and $250 from that of county commissioners chairman Woody White. Among the 36 individuals that contributed to his campaign, Watkins received $100 from commissioner Tom Wolfe and $150 from fellow council candidate Charlie Rivenbark. Rivenbark did not immediately return phone calls to ask about his donation to a competitor.
Watkins’ major contributors included $1,000 from Deborah Powers, vice president of a carnival attraction company; $1,000 from George Rountree, senior partner with Rountree Losee, LLP; and $850 from Tom Harris, owner of Front Street Brewery;
Kevin O’Grady was the runner-up for the reporting period, netting $6,163 from 31 individuals for a total of $9,413 throughout the election cycle. He was his own biggest contributor, giving $2,538 to his campaign. He also received $500 from Katherine McKenzie, listed in campaign finance disclosures as a banker. His other two largest contributions came from Darwin Ferry, a surgeon, and James Bierman, a lawyer. Each gave $250.
Earl Sheridan pulled in $1,723 from 24 individual donors, a majority of whom contributed $50 or less. His largest donation came from former city attorney Carolyn Johnson, who gave $250.
Rivenbark closed the 35-day reporting period with a lone contribution of $500 from attorney Alex Hall, a senior partner at Hall & Green, LLP.
Neither Felix Cooper nor Derek Bickel, the other two candidates for council, had reached the $1,000 threshold to be required to file campaign finance reports.
“I haven’t had any receipts whatsoever,” Cooper said in an Oct. 7 interview. “I don’t plan on doing any fundraising. If it comes it comes, if it doesn’t, it just doesn’t.”
Bickel also indicated fundraising would not be a significant aspect of his campaign.
“It’s not really a focus right now,” he said during an Oct. 8 interview. I don’t plan to exceed the $1,000 threshold as of right now. That could change, but right now, no.”
Running unopposed for his fourth term as Wilmington mayor, Bill Saffo received two contributions in the 35-day period, both from political action committees: $1,500 came from N.C. Realtors and another $1,000 came from The Corning, Inc. Employees. With $8,153 on hand at the beginning of the election cycle, Saffo’s current war chest stands at $9,150.
The last campaign finance reports available before the Nov. 5 election are due Oct. 28 and will include funds raised up until Oct. 21.
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