The three Republicans who are representing Oconee County in the General Assembly session that got underway last week received just more than 63 percent of the votes cast in the three multi-county districts that selected them.
They won their seats after receiving 88 percent of the campaign funds raised during the election year in the three districts and accounting for just less than 81 percent of the campaign spending during the year in those districts.
Even with the high levels of spending, the three were so successful at fund raising that they ended the year with just a little less than 100 percent of the unspent campaign funds.
The Democrats can take some solace in knowing that they got a much higher return on their investments.
Republican Houston Gaines spent $12.36 for each vote he received in his successful campaign for House District 120, compared with $7.91 that Democrat Mokah Jasmine Johnson spent.
Republican Marcus Wiedower spent $10.92 for each vote he received in the House District 121 race, while Democrat Jeff Auerbach spent only $3.31.
Republican Bill Cowsert spent only $3.84 for each of his votes in his five-county Senate District 46 race, but his Democratic opponent Andrew Ferguson spent only 74 cents for each of the votes he received.
The spending figures are deceptive, however, because each of the three Republican candidates gave away significant amounts of the money he raised to other candidates outside their districts.
Campaign Finance Reports
These analyses come from the final Campaign Contribution Disclosure Reports the candidates were required to file on Dec. 31, 2022.
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Gaines filed his report on Jan. 10, Wiedower on Jan. 9, Cowsert on Jan. 6, Johnson on Jan. 2, Auerbach on Jan. 6, and Ferguson on Jan. 1.
The Georgia Campaign Finance Commission allows a five-day grace period beyond the deadline, which would have been Jan. 6, with the holiday.
Cowsert is listed as having an outstanding $125 fine for missing the deadline for the Oct. 25 report.
According to the Commission, Cowsert didn’t file that report until Jan. 6, when he also filed the Dec. 31 report.
The Dec. 31 report covered the 14 days following the Oct. 25 report and leading up to and including the Nov. 8 election.
It also included the 53 days after the election until the end of the year.
Contributions And Spending
During the period covered by the Dec. 31 report, Gaines raised $14,850 and spent $20,717.
Johnson raised only $50 in the Oct. 25 until the end of the year period and spent $1,314.
Wiedower raised $16,800 in the final period of the campaign and spent $17,017.
Auerbach raised $638 and spent $4,462.
Cowsert raised $1,200 in the close of the year and spent $10,472.
Ferguson raised $778 and spent $6,542.
The three Republican candidates began the year with large surpluses, while only Johnson among the Democrats, who ran against Gaines two years ago, started the year with money in the bank.
During the year, Gaines raised $461,455, including 10 contributions of $3,000, the allowed limit.
Included were $3,000 each from Gan Ulm, Joseph Ulm, Maria Ulm, and William L. Ulm Sr., all with a Watkinsville postal address.
William L. Ulm Sr. is the registered agent form Andersen-Wells LLC, which owns 11 properties in Oconee County, according to county tax records, including a large number around the Dials Mill Road intersection with SR 316 being listed for development by the Boswell Group.
Gaines received $500 from James (Jamie) Boswell, owner of the Boswell group, who represents Oconee County and the surrounding area on the state Transportation Board. Gaines will vote on his reappointment during the current session.
Johnson raised $61,415, with three of her contributions for $3,000. She also listed a contribution from herself of $4,800.
Georgia Fine Wine
Wiedower raised $319,102 during the year, with 27 of those contributions at the $3,000 limit.
Included was $3,000 from Karen Mahoney, $3,000 from Kelly Mahoney, and $3,000 from KM Holdings LLC. Kelly Mahoney is the registered agent of KM Holdings and Wiedower’s employer.
Wiedower, who also will vote on Boswell's reappointment, received $750 in contributions from Boswell.
Auerbach raised $40,148 during the year and had four contributions of $3,000.
Cowsert raised $149,885 during the year, with six contributions of $3,000. He also listed a $6,000 contribution, or twice the allowed amount, from Georgia Fine Wine LLC of Bethesda, Md.
Ferguson reported raising $20,256 during the year, the least any of the candidates reported receiving, and he had no contributions of more than $2,000.
Gaines’ expenditures are hard to categorize, as he lists $50,796 for Bank of America for his credit card payments. That is more than a quarter of his total expenditures of $185,507.
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A large amount of the documented spending is for funding the campaigns of other candidates.
Gaines lists $26,500 as “contributions” to other campaigns, and another $14,400 as “other” that also is for political campaigns, based on the names of the recipients.
Under “donation” he also listed $1,000 for Kemp for Governor.
If those three categories are combined, at least $41,900 of Gaines’ expenditures are transfers to other campaigns, or more than 22 percent of his spending.
As the current House session began, Gaines was elected Majority Caucus Vice-Chair, one of eight Republican leadership positions in the House.
Wiedower spent $173,559 during the year on his campaign, with nearly half, $84,148 going to War Room Strategies, a campaign consulting firm with a Watkinsville address.
A significant amount of Wiedower's spending also was the transfer of funds to other candidates.
Wiedower gave $1,000 to Timothy Barr for Congress, $1,400 to Seabaugh for State House (Marietta), and $1,500 to Committee to Elect Dale Washburn (Macon) and to Friends of Lynn R. Smith (Newnan).
Cowsert spent $186,443 during the 2022 calendar year on his campaign, the most of the six candidates seeking to represent Oconee County in the General Assembly.
His Senate District includes all of Oconee County and parts of Clarke, Walton, Barrow and Gwinnett counties.
Wiedower’s 121 House District includes only parts of Oconee and Clarke counties, while Gaines’ 120th House District includes parts of Oconee, Clarke, Barrow, and Jackson counties.
Cowsert’s largest expenditures were with South Public Affairs Consulting and Parlay Marketing Partners, for a combined $80,286.
He gave $10,100 to his brother-in-law Brian Kemp for his campaign, and $7,500 to the Georgia Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Cowsert listed expenditures of $4,370 to the University of Georgia Foundation and to the University of Georgia Athletic Association.
The Democratic spending reflects small-scale, local campaigns controlled by the candidates themselves.
Johnson list $29,716 of her total expenditures as for individual worker salaries, and $12,503 for “information technology costs (internet, e-mail), including $3,452 for Facebook.
Johnson’s two largest expenditures were $1,800 and $3,000 to herself, which she labels as “loan repayment,” matching the $4,800 in contributions from herself she listed.
Auerbach spent $6,421 on “campaign literature and mailings” and “campaign paraphernalia/misc.”
He also gave $26,160 to the Democratic Party of Georgia as his “contribution” to the party campaign.
Ferguson’s largest expenses were $1,789 to VistaPrint and $1,201 to Scale To Win for “campaign literature and mailings” and “phone banks” respectively.
Alone among the candidates, Ferguson listed traditional print media expenditures of $415 for the Walton Tribune and $447 for The Oconee Enterprise.
Ferguson also listed $563 for Facebook.
Oconee GOP Meeting
Jordan Chinouth, founder of WarRoom Strategies, is one of two guest speakers scheduled for the Oconee County Republican Party meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 23 at Marswood Hall, 3761 Mars Hill Road.
Chinouth is to be joined by Greg Bluestein, chief political report for the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Oconee County Republican Party does not allow anyone to video record its meetings.
Audio record is supposed to be banned as well, but that rule is not enforced.
I cannot attend for medical reasons, but, if anyone is willing to provide me with an audio recording, I will report on the meeting.