Saturday, February 12, 2022

Oconee County’s State Legislators Begin Year With Hefty Reserves In Campaign Accounts

***Three Republicans File Campaign Finance Reports***

State Rep. Houston Gaines, fresh off a seven-month fundraising period during which he raised $169,915, has $258,848 available as he enters the 2022 campaign season.

Rep. Marcus Wiedower, who raised $84,900 in the second half of 2021 and first month of 2022, will have $135,704 on hand once the legislature ends its session and the campaign season gets fully underway.

Sen. Bill Cowsert raised $75,285 in the June 30, 2021, to Jan. 31, 2022, period and has $310,108 in his campaign account as of the end of January.

Gaines, Wiedower, and Cowsert, who represent Oconee County in the General Assembly, have no announced opposition in the Republican Primary, and no Democrats have announced plans to qualify to run against the incumbents.

Gaines reported in his Jan. 31, 2022, Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report at least four donors giving $3,000, with many others giving $2,800.

Wiedower reported mostly more moderate sized contributions, but they included $250 from Twin Pines Minerals LLC of Birmingham and $250 from the Georgia Mining Association Committee for Good Governance.

Wiedower sits on the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, which has been assigned a bill to ban mining near Okefenokee Swamp, where Twin Pines has applied to begin titanium extraction.

Cowsert reported one contribution at the $6,000 level, one at the $3,000 level, and several at the $2,800 level. The maximum allowed contribution is $3,000.

Gaines Report

Gaines, who has a record of strong fundraising, reported in his Jan. 31, 2022, Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report receiving $3,000 from Caterpillar Employeees Political Action Committee of Peoria, Ill.

Gaines Official Photo

Caterpillar has a plant in Bogart.

Gaines also received $3,000 from Community Development and Health PAC of Georgia, from Michael Hylton of Athens, and from Brady Larrison of Watkinsville.

Among those who contributed $2,800 were Civic Justice PAC in Atlanta, the Georgia Association of Realtors PAC, and Donald Leebern of McDonnough, Georgia.

Gaines’ father, Dr. Joseph Gaines, gave $2,500.

The largest expenditure listed by Gaines in the Jan. 31 report was $4,957 for a fundraising event at Athens Country Club followed by $3,765 for rent at 240 N. Highland Ave. NE in Atlanta.

Gaines, at present, represents three precincts in Oconee County, East Oconee, Marswood Hall, and Bogart, but he will be seeking re-election in the new House District 120, which will include only Marswood Hall and Bogart. Gaines campaign form lists the funds as for a re-election bid.

Qualifying for the May 24 primary is from March 7 to 11.

Wiedower Report

Wiedower reported receiving $2,800 from The Georgia Association of Realtors PAC, $2,800 from Civil Justice PAC Inc. of Atlanta, $2,800 from Donald M. Leebern Jr. of McDonough, Georgia, $2,800 from Suzanne Yocular-Leebern, also of McDonough.

Wiedower Official Photo

Wiedower also received $2,800 from his employer, Charles L. Upchurch III and Associates of Athens.

Wiedower received $500 from Builders PAC of Atlanta and $500 from Georgia Highway Contractors Association, also of Atlanta.

He received $250 from the Georgia Oilmen’s Association of Lawrenceville.

Wiedower’s largest expenditure was $5,173 for campaign consultants War Room Strategies, 3651 Mars Hill Road.

Wiedower now represents all of Oconee County except the three precincts represented by Gaines, but in the new House District 121, he will represent what was East Oconee Precinct.

As of Jan. 31, that precinct has been merged into the Civic Center precinct, which Wiedower now and in the future will represent, if he is re-elected. Wiedower has declared his intent to seek re-election.

House Bill 1289, before Wiedower’s Natural Resources and Environment Committee, would not stop the Georgia Environmental Protection Division from issuing permits to Twin Pines if they are issued before July 1 of this year, but it would ban future permits for mining near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

Cowsert’s Report

Cowsert reported receiving $6,000 from Georgia Fine Wine LLC of Bethesda, Md., and $3,000 from Ultra Group of Companies Inc. of Norcross.

The primary election contribution maximum is set at $3,000

(NOTE: The $6,000 contribution is labeled as "Primary." Cowsert told me in an email message at 11:45 a.m. on Feb. 14 that $3,000 is for the Primary and $3,000 is for the General Election. "I will review to make sure that it is clearly designated as such," he wrote. I asked him to inform me when the correction has been made.)

Cowsert Official Photo

Cowsert reported receiving $2,800 from AT&T Georgia Political Action Committee, $2,800 from Liberty House Restaurant Corporation of Atlanta, and $2,800 from O’Kelley and Sorohan Attorneys at law of Duluth.

Cowsert’s largest expense was $2,500 he gave to Burt Jones for Georgia campaign committee in Jackson. Jones is running for Lieutenant Governor and is endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Cowsert’s new 46th Senate District will include all of Oconee County, as does the current 46th Senate District

Cowsert also will pick up parts of Barrow and Gwinnett counties in the new 46th, if he is re-elected.

Candidates are required to file the Jan. 31 Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report, but those candidates in the state legislature are not allowed to raise any funds while the legislature is in session.

Cowsert’s last recorded contribution was on Jan. 7, two days before the session began on Jan. 10. Wiedower’s last listed contribution was on Jan. 9, and Gaines’s also was on Jan. 9.

The Twin Mines and Georgia Mining Association contributions to Wiedower were dated Jan. 4.

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