Empty campaign coffers leave little cash on hand

by Kelly Corbett and Sam Wilson
Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Wrightsville Beach Board of Alderman Hank Miller raised nearly $11,000 during his 2013 campaign, far more than fellow board members and those who ran unsuccessfully for office.

Year-end campaign finance reports were due to the New Hanover County Board of Elections by Jan. 31, for the period running from Oct. 22 to Dec. 31.

During that period, Miller raised about $668 from three individuals and spent $6,112 in disbursements. The bulk went to mailers and $2,500 in website consulting and $450 in communications to Talk, Inc. Miller had $754 leftover cash on hand.

Former alderman Bill Sisson, who was not reelected, received $868 in contributions from two individuals during the most recent period.

The largest donation came from Sisson’s wife, Joy Miller, for in-kind contributions for flyers and mailers totaling $793. For the entire election cycle, Sisson raised $4,370. After spending money on postcards and reimbursements to himself and his wife for mostly FedEx and post office expenses, Sisson had no leftover cash on hand.

Alderwoman Lisa Weeks raised $4,120 during the election cycle, with only $200 in two $100 checks for the most recent period. Expenses included postcards, post office charges, invitations and meet-and-greet appetizers.

Unsuccessful alderman candidate Andy Hall, Mayor Bill Blair, Sisson and Weeks closed out their campaign committees under the $1,000 threshold in December 2013 and January 2014. No other Wrightsville Beach campaign finance reports were available as of press time.

In the three-seat race for Wilmington City Council, during which incumbents Kevin O’Grady, Charlie Rivenbark and Earl Sheridan all retained their seats for additional four-year terms, Rivenbark led the pack during the final reporting period with $4,300 raised.

Rivenbark raised more than $12,500 during the year, spending nearly $12,000 during the final stretch. Major contributors to his campaign during the year-end period included: Michael McCarley of Atlantic Diving and Marine, who gave $1,000; Michael Lee, an attorney with plans to run for state senate this year, who gave $500; and Rivenbark, who gave himself $1,000.

Sheridan raised more than $9,600 during the year, $3,000 coming in after Oct. 11, 2013. Most of his money came from smaller contributions, although Nick Beckton, a Suntrust banker, and Mack Pearsall, an Asheville hotel owner, each gave him $500. He spent $6,700, with more than $3,400 going toward ads. He also paid $1,400 to Bill Ellis BBQ for a campaign appreciation meal. 

O’Grady, who netted the highest vote total in the council race, also netted the highest fundraising total, with $17,000 raised in 2013. While he pulled in just $1,200 in the last reporting period, he spent nearly four times that amount, and spent nearly all of his income throughout the year, ending with just $300 cash on hand.

Mayor Bill Saffo, who ran unopposed for another term as Wilmington’s mayor, took in just $251 in the final reporting period, ending the year with a $9,481 war chest, little changed from his cash on hand at the beginning of 2013. He spent $400 on a magazine ad prior to the election.

Candidates Derek Bickel and Felix Cooper, who placed fifth and sixth, respectively, in the six-way councilman race, did not meet the $1,000 reporting threshold and closed out their campaign finance committees in November.

Skip Watkins, who came just shy of grabbing Sheridan’s seat, raised $1,000 in the final period, with no individual contributions of $500 or more. However, Watkins took in more than $15,000 throughout the year and sank $8,200 into the race during the final reporting period. More than $5,700 went toward radio ads, bumper stickers and signs.

Having indicated he will run in 2014 for the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners, Watkins’ council campaign finished with $1,100 he could transfer to his next race.

Others seeking higher office already have a head start on their fundraising campaigns as well.

Commission Chairman Woody White and Commissioner Jonathan Barfield have announced they will both seek the Congressional seat to be vacated by Rep. Mike McIntyre once his current term expires. Barfield has $6,000 in his campaign, while White has $3,000 on hand as stated by their year-end reports.

email kelly@luminanews.com  and sam@luminanews.com  


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