Sunday, December 04, 2016

Oconee County Board Of Commissioner Candidates Went Into Final Days Of Runoff With Money In Reserve

Early Voting Turnout Low

Chuck Horton raised slightly more money than Marcus Wiedower in the last days of October and November as the two competed in the special election for open Post 2 on the Oconee County Board of Commissioners.

Wiedower raised $3,793 and spent $17,818 with War Room Strategies, an Athens-based consulting firm, leaving him with a balance of $9,521 for the campaign going into the final vote on Tuesday, according to his campaign finance reports.

Horton raised $8,735, including $4,335 he lent this campaign since he filed his last return on Oct. 21, and spent $4,335 for signs, mailings and advertising. He had $5,016 in reserve as of Oct. 30.

Only 1,620 of Oconee County’s 24,058 registered voters turned out in the five days of early voting that ended on Friday, meaning that far fewer than the 20,476 who voted on Nov. 8 are likely to vote by the end of election day on Tuesday,

The low turnout means that either candidate has a good chance of winning on Tuesday, when polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The outcome likely will be determined by the percentage of Horton’s 8,028 and Wiedower’s 5,360 Nov. 8 voters who return to the polls as well as what happens to the 4,261 voters that Ben Bridges, the third candidate who was eliminated from the runoff, received on that date.

All registered voters, included those who did not vote on Nov. 8, are eligible to vote in the runoff.

Horton’s Contributions

The Campaign Contributions Disclosure Reports filed with the Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration by both candidates on Nov. 30 reflect income and spending only through that date.

Horton’s largest contribution in the period after his last campaign disclosure report on Oct. 21 was $500 from Talitha Stone, 1050 Old Mill Drive, outside Watkinsville. Stone’s employer is not listed on the form.

Horton’s next largest contribution was $400 from Clifton Crews, 1050 Canyon Creek Court, off Mars Hill Road. Crews is listed as a retired educator.

Horton reported a total of $20,221 in campaign contributions during the two reporting periods, including $9,889 in loans he made to himself.

Wiedower’s Contributions

Wiedower’s largest contribution since he filed his last report on Oct. 24 was $2,000 from Michele Wiedower, 1010 Cobblestone Lane, south of Bogart. Michele Wiedower is listed as a project manager at ADP.

Final Pitch Horton

Wiedower has not responded to my email and text messages asking about his relationship to Michele Wiedower. Wiedower and his wife, Kelly, live at 1081 Princeton Lane northwest of Watkinsville.

Wiedower also got $500 from Weyman Casper, 4301 Greensboro Highway, south of Watkinsville, owner of Georgia Landscapes, and $500 from Barbara McBride, Glendale, Ariz. McBride is listed as retired.

Wiedower’s campaign committee treasurer is Pamela Marie McBride.

Error On Wiedower Form

Wiedower’s total campaign contributions are misstated on the form he filed on Nov. 30. (See Note Below.)

In his filing on Oct. 24, he listed $23,965 in contributions.

Wiedower mistakenly listed his “Net Balance On Hand” from that Oct. 24 form as his “Total Contributions To Date” on his Nov. 30 form.

As a result, he reported that he had received only $14,868, rather than $23,965, in that earlier filing period, and that he had received $3,793 in new money

Wiedower’s total campaign contributions should be $27,758 rather than the $18,662 shown on the Nov. 30 form.


Wiedower listed only two expenses during his second filing period, the $17,818 to War Room Strategies and $145 for The Oconee Enterprise.

In the report he filed on Oct. 24, Wiedower listed $5,165 in spending with War Room Strategies.

Wiedower listed a total of $9,096 in expenditures in the earlier campaign period, and the $17,963 in the second period, for a total of $27,059.

Final Pitch Wiedower

Wiedower could not have spent $27,059 if he had raised only $18,237, as his second campaign form shows.

That second form lists only $425 in unspent funds, rather than the $9,521 difference between my calculation of campaign contributions and reported spending.

Horton’s $4,335 in spending included $1,077 with the Enterprise and $1,209 with the United States Postal Service for mailings.

Final pitch

Both candidates have relied heavily on yard signs during the campaign, and the signs have remained visible around the county in the weeks after the Nov. 8 balloting.

Horton, 1061 Ramblewood Place east of Watkinsville, has used a redesigned sign noting the runoff on Tuesday.

Both candidates also ran closing ads in the Enterprise on Thursday, making a final pitch to the voters.

Horton, 62, focused on his experience. The retired police chief from the University of Georgia has served eight years on the Board of Education, four as chair, and eight years on the Board of Commissioners.

Wiedower’s advertisement includes a picture of his wife and young family, and Wiedower, 41, a political novice, claims he is the only candidate who has children in the Oconee County School system and who operates a business in the county.

Wiedower, a custom home builder, is owner of BluePrintBuilders, 8771 Old Macon Highway.

Old Macon Highway Office

Horton’s children are grown but they did go through the county school system. He currently is the parking director in Athens.


It seems likely that only about 3,000 voters will participate in the runoff election, based on recent ratios of votes cast in early voting and on election day itself.

Given that Horton got 8,028 and Wiedower’s got 5,360 votes on Nov. 8, each would have to get only a fraction of his voters to the polls to get a majority of the votes.

Signs Near Proposed Flyover

Bridges has not endorsed either candidate, so what happens to his 4,261 voters is another uncertainty.

Wiedower, as a custom home builder, has business connections to many in the building and construction industry in the county, as well as to county employees in Code Enforcement and other departments with which he comes into contact because of his work.

Wiedower probably can depend on significant turnout from the construction and building community as well as from supporters of retiring Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis, whom Horton challenged unsuccessfully for the chairmanship in 2012.

Horton has taken unconditional stands against the proposed Daniells Bridge Road flyover of SR Loop 10 and against the proposed sewer line down Calls Creek, while Wiedower has supported the flyover while stating concern about impact on nearby neighborhoods and said he would support the sewer line only after alternative have been considered and rejected.

Horton’s success probably depends on how many of those who favor his stands on those and other issues go to the polls.

Stories And Videos

I did interviews with both Wiedower and Horton and published stories that summarized the stands taken by the candidates on a wide variety of issues facing the county.

Full videos of those interviews as well as other video clips from the campaign are available on an election channel I created on the Oconee County Observations Vimeo site.

Note for 1:25 p.m. on 12/5/2016: Wiedower submitted a corrected form to the Board of Elections and Registration at 12:04 p.m. today that reported $27,759 in contributions. Also, I mistyped Wiedower's name in several places in the earlier version. I apologize.


Xardox said...

Errors on campaign disclosure forms?
1. Mr. Wiedower should fire that fancy consultant he hired, and pay better attention to some pretty important details if he wants handle Oconee County citizens' money.
2. It is doubtful that many of Mr. Bridges' voters will turn out in this run-off, so each vote is crucial. This is an important decision point for our county.
3. Couple typos in first paragraph of Mr. Wiedower's name.
Hey, what are friends for?

Anonymous said...

Funny that Hortons second largest contributor "Crews" is list as "retired educator" when he was a builder for many years prior to retiring. There's also no mention of Wes Wilson a local real estate investor who is Horton's campaign manager. It's a wicked web that's been weaved that goes untold.

Lee Becker said...

Thanks, Xardox, for calling me out on the errors in the name. I apologize.

Lee Becker said...

I have edited this comment slightly.

This is Wes Wilson. Dear Mr. Anonymous...
Chuck has repaid me for my expenses. I assure you that I will be glad to spend any legal amount that he needs to (respond to) the man who degraded his impeccable name to the good people of Oconee County. However, there is no doubt my name will end up on his disclosure when this is over. There should is no secret about the man I support! We found out today after your ridiculous comment that Dr. Crews built a few homes back 20 years ago. He is retired from the University of Georgia and over 70 years old. He doesn't hold a builders license or own a development company... Good try Mr. Negative.

Lee Becker said...

Wesley and Sarah Wilson, Lavista Road, contributed $250 to Horton's campaign during the second reporting period. Wilson is chairperson of Friends of Chuck Horton, Horton's campaign committee. Neither Wesley nor Sarah Wilson were listed as contributors during the first campaign period. Wilson is a manager with Oconee Painting of Athens.

Anonymous said...

I know we cannot change history-only learn from it.

The comments state -This candidate has connections here and this candidate has supporters and money there. I question the large amount of money spent. Ask yourself-What is For Sale?

I am just remembering two individuals that ran for Post 1 & 4. They presented positive ideas and specific directions for the county. They demonstrated how to efficiently run a campaign with little money to project a needed message. They wanted an honest discussion with the people of Oconee County.

We reject that which you say you want.
How can we expect integrity in government until we demonstrate it with our votes.

Anonymous said...

Wes, Crews built more than a few homes back 20 years ago. As for Lee's comment with regards to Wes being listed as manager of Oconee Painting, you can list whatever you want. It leaves out the fact that he owns a paint store (Benjamin Moore in Normal Town) in Athens, Oconee Roofing and numerous land holdings around Oconee under different names. One of those being the Packer Time LLC which owns a lot of property on Rankin Road and its a blight to Oconee County. Guess leaving things of that nature out are what's done by candidates.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Horton has never been part of the "development" gang. You could say he has been hit (from the political standpoint) by questioning those interests. Just my observation.