Sunday, July 24, 2011

Oconee County’s Williams Raised More than $55,000 in Successful Race for Georgia House

Spent At Least $8 Per Vote

Chuck Williams, who last week won the runoff election for the open seat in the Georgia House of Representatives, proved to be a magnet for campaign funds in the weeks following the June 21 special election.

Williams, who will represent Oconee County and parts of three neighboring counties when the General Assembly meets next month, raised $41,046 during the four weeks between June 13, when he filed his first campaign finance statement, and July 15, when he filed his last statement.

Williams had raised $20,288 in the weeks before the June 13 statement, bringing his total for the campaign to $61,334.

That June figure included $5,908 that Williams lent himself for the campaign.

If the loan figure is removed from the total, the $55,426 Williams raised during the 10 weeks between his declaration of intent to accept campaign contributions on May 6 and July 15 compares with the $81,745 that Hank Huckaby raised during the longer period of roughly eight months from his April 21, 2010, filing of his declaration of intent to accept contributions and the end of that year.

Williams at candidate forum 6/30/2011

It also compares with the $90,360 that Bob Smith reported raising in nine months from March 31 of 2006 to the end of that year.

Huckaby and Smith raised about $10,000 per month, while Williams raised more than twice that amount.

Williams, Huckaby and Smith faced Democratic opposition in their elections, though Smith’s opponent in 2006, Becky Vaughn, was better known and better financed than the opposition faced by Williams or Huckaby.

In the just completed election, Williams got considerable help from people outside the four counties he will serve and particularly from elected officials. The district includes all of Oconee County and parts of Clarke, Morgan and Oglethorpe counties.

Williams got $23,850 from the campaign funds of other politicians, including $2,500 from House Speaker David Ralston, $2,500 from Rep. Terry England of Winder, $1,000 from Sen. Bill Cowsert, who represents Oconee County, $500 from Huckaby, and $150 from Rep. Doug McKillip in Clarke County.

People, companies and organizations from outside the four counties that contribute voters to the 113 House District contributed $36,550 to Williams’ campaign, or 65.9 percent of the total funds he raised.

That included most of the political campaign committees, but also Rayonier Operating Company from Jacksonville and General Electric from Ft. Myers, Fla, each of which contributed $500.

Dan Matthews, Williams’ opponent last week, had raised $4,411, including a loan he made to his campaign of $100, according to his finance statement of July 13.

Suzy Compere did not report raising any campaign funds in her 2010 campaign against Huckaby.

Vaughn, who ran against Smith in 2006, reported raising $32,311 in her campaign in 2006.

Huckaby was elected to fill Smith’s spot in November of 2010 after Smith announced his retirement.

The special election was called by Gov. Nathan Deal on April 29 after Huckaby announced his resignation to become chancellor of the University System of Georgia.

In the time between May 6 and the first campaign finance report on June 13, the largest contributions Williams received were for $1,000.

He had received that amount from four sources: Calvin Thomas Griffith, founder of Golden Pantry who lives outside Watkinsville; Benson’s Inc., of Bogart; ForestPAC of the Georgia Forestry Association, and the Georgia Bankers Association Political Action Committee.

Larry Benson, bakery and hotel owner, served as campaign treasurer for Williams.

Williams is a tree farmer and a member of the Georgia Forestry Association and was appointed by former Gov. Sonny Perdue to the Georgia Forestry Commission's Board of Directors

He also was founder of North Georgia Bank, which failed earlier this year, and chairman of the Georgia Bankers Association.

Williams actually filed two campaign statements on July 15. The first was filed that morning and was an amendment to the June 13 filing. It listed the same amount raised as the June 13 report.

I referenced that report in a blog I filed late in the afternoon of July 15.

But at 4:56 p.m. on that date, according to the electronic records at the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, Williams filed a second report, listing the additional contributions of $41,046.

This filing listed four contributions of $2,000 each, two of $1,500, and 11 of $1,000.

All of the $2,000 contributions were from campaign funds of politicians. These were the Larry O’Neal Campaign Fund of Warner Robins, the Committee to Elect R.M. Channell of Greensboro, the Ralston for Representative Committee of Blue Ridge, and of Friends of Jan Jones of Alpharetta.

Ralston is House Speaker. O’Neal, Channel and Jones are members of the House.

Ralston for Representative Committee also made a contribution of $500, for a total of $2,500.

Huckaby for State House, former representative Huckaby’s campaign committee, made two contributions of $250 each.

England made two contributions, one for $1,500 and another for $1,000.

Williams received a total of 32 contributions from committees of politicians, all of them after he had defeated fellow Republicans Alan Alexander and Sarah Bell in the June 21 first round of voting.

Williams received 77, or 49.7 percent, of his 155 contributions from outside the four counties that contribute voters to the 113th District.

I classified contributions based on ZIP code. ZIP codes not registered for Clarke, Morgan, Oconee or Oglethorpe counties were considered to be outside the district.

In the second July 15 report, Williams indicated he had spent $26,474 on the campaign and had the remaining $34,860 in reserve. Almost all of the spending was for signs and other advertising.

Matthews, in his July 13 report, indicated that he had spent $2,805 and had $1,605 in reserve. His spending also was mostly for signs and advertising.

Based on these amounts, Williams spent $8.41 for each of the 3,149 votes he received in the crucial runoff on July 19, and Matthews spent $1.48 for each of his 1,897.

Both candidates will have to file reports at the end of this year indicating how much additional money they received and their final spending figures.

They also will have to explain if they have paid themselves back for the loans they made to their campaigns.

Almost certainly, Williams will have funds remaining for his future political ambitions or to help other candidates with theirs.