Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Oconee County’s State Legislators In Strong Position At Beginning Of New Election Cycle

***All Three Have More Cash On Hand Than In 2019***

Marcus Wiedower, who represents nine of Oconee County’s 12 precincts in the Georgia House of Representatives, has more than 10 times the campaign cash in hand than he had at this time two years ago.

Houston Gaines, who represents the remaining three Oconee County precincts in the Georgia House, has nearly three times the amount of funds as he had at this point in the off-year in 2019.

Bill Cowsert, who represents all of Oconee County in the Georgia Senate, has slightly more campaign money than he had in his campaign account two years ago.

Because of restrictions in place while the General Assembly was in session earlier this year, none of the three legislators, all Republicans, raised large amounts of money in the first six months of this year.

Some of those restrictions were lifted as of July 1 because of a bill co-sponsored by Cowsert and approved by Wiedower and Gaines at the end of the legislative session. The bill passed without any Democratic votes.

The cash in hand, the new voting law, and the lack of any clear Democratic challengers leave Wiedower, Gaines, and Cowsert in strong positions should they opt to seek re-election in 2022.

June 30 Campaign Finance Reports

The data on the cash in hand of the three Oconee County representatives in the General Assembly come from the June 30 Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report.

Click To Enlarge

The report is the first since the end of the General Assembly on March 31 and marks the beginning of the new campaign cycle.

The terms of Wiedower, Gaines, and Cowsert expire at the end of 2022.

Gaines represents the 117th House District, which includes the three Oconee County precincts of East Oconee, Marswood Hall, and Bogart as well as parts of Clarke, Barrow, and Jackson counties.

Wiedower represents the remaining nine Oconee County precincts plus parts of Clarke County in the 119th House District.

Cowsert represents all of Oconee County plus parts of Clarke and Walton counties. His is the 46th Senate District.

Comparison with 2019

In his June 30, 2019, campaign finance report, Wiedower listed only $6,616 cash on hand, compared with the $68,650 in the report for June 30, 2021.

Gaines listed $38,651 in his account on June 30, 2019, compared with $108,514 this year.

Both Wiedower and Gaines were first elected to the General Assembly in 2018.

Cowsert had $248,309 in his June 30, 2019, account, and he reported having $249,499 on hand this year.

Cowsert has held his senate position since 2007.

Funds Raised

Each of the three candidates has rolled over their accounts in the last two years–listing contributions starting at zero plus the money carried over as cash on hand.

In fact, Cowsert has done this three times.

A sum of the individual cash contributions in each of the reports since June 30, 2019, shows that Wiedower raised $321,069, Gaines raised $447,271, and Cowsert raised $153,300.

These figures do not include in-kind contributions.

Funds Spent

From June 30, 3019, to June 30, 2021, Wiedower spent $259,034, Gaines spent $377,407, and Cowsert spent $164,198.

In 2020 alone, Wiedower spent $249,466, Gaines spent $375,562, and Cowsert spent $116,890.

All three won their races in 2020 by significant margins, Wiedower with 54.9 percent of the vote, Gaines with 56.6 percent, and Cowsert with 61.0 percent.

Jonathan Wallace, the Democratic candidate in 2020 in the 119th District, raised $237,137 in 2020 and spent $231,826, or just less than Wiedower’s $249,466.

Mokah Jasmine Johnson, the Democratic candidate in the 117th House District, raised $278,299 and spent $257,819 in 2020, or considerably less than Gaines’ $375,562.

Zachary Perry, the Democratic candidate in Senate District 46, raised $10,512 and spent only $5,280 in 2020, compared with the $116,890 Cowsert spent.

None of the three Democrats has filed a finance report for June 30, 2021.

Wallace has moved out of Oconee County and out of the 119th House District.

Funds Raised 2021

So far in 2021, according to the Campaign Contribution Disclosure Reports for January and June, Wiedower has raised $12,475, Gaines has raised $6,470, and Cowsert has raised $22,900

The General Assembly was in session from Jan. 11 to March 31, so none of the three was allowed to raise funds during that period.

Wiedower reported contributions on Jan. 7 and Jan. 10 and from May 13 to June 25.

Gaines reported his contributions from Jan. 4 through Jan. 10 and from April 11 through June 22.

Cowsert reported receiving contributions from Jan. 4 to 6, and from May 28 to June 30.

Senate Bill 221

Under Senate Bill 221, passed at the end of the session, the three still will not be able to solicit or report campaign contributions while the legislature is in session.

The exiting law is designed to prevent undue influence on the legislators during the time the General Assembly is making laws.

Senate Bill 221 gets around this prohibition by providing for the creation of “Leadership Committees,” which can accept money while the legislature is meeting.

The heads of the Republican and Democratic caucuses in both the House and the Senate are authorized to create such a committee.

These “Leadership Committees” can distribute the money received during the legislative session to individual legislators such as Wiedower, Gaines, and Cowsert.

Contributions to individual legislators are now capped at $8,600, but there is no cap in contributions to the “Leadership Committees.”

No Democrat in either the House or the Senate voted in favor of the bill, and three Republican senators voted against the bill.

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