Theres no clear picture of how fundraising is going for all the candidates seeking seats on the new Macon-Bibb County consolidated commission, but a few facts stand out from the reports available so far.
Many of the 25 candidates for the nine-seat commission had only a few thousand dollars as of early July, and some had practically no money.
But in one race, at least, the financial imbalance is apparently huge. Macon City Councilman Larry Schlesinger is running for the District 2 seat against fellow Councilman Henry Ficklin and former mayoral candidate Paul Bronson.
Bronson doesnt have a campaign finance report available on the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission. Ficklin -- whose latest filing appears, for some reason, under the heading for his previous council race -- reported in early July that he raised $5,982, spent $4,999.52, and had $982.48 left.
Schlesinger reported $53,806 in contributions and $9,337.88 in spending by July 10 -- leaving $44,468.12 on hand. Thats more than any other commission candidate has reported and more than most candidates for countywide mayor.
People have been very supportive and are showing their support with their generosity, Schlesinger said, adding that hes humbled by his backers largesse.
The disparity in reporting -- one report not filed, and two available but with one in a different category -- isnt surprising, given the earlier uncertainty about the Macon-Bibb government election date, which affects when reports are due.
Most candidates qualified for office in April, when the election was still set for July 16. Had the election been held then, candidates would have been required to file their finance reports at the end of June -- and some did.
But the U.S. Department of Justice held up that election, and it wasnt until July 9 that a federal judge agreed to the newly chosen Sept. 17 election date.
Qualifying reopened for three days this past week, and three new candidates joined the race while two dropped out. The new election date means finance reports are now due Sept. 2.
My understanding is that we really didnt have to do it until two weeks before (the election), Schlesinger said. It was just so confusing we went ahead and did it anyway, just for transparency purposes and to make sure we were in line one way or another.
The nine commission districts include one four-way race, five three-way races and three two-way contests.
For District 1, Bibb County Commissioner Gary Bechtel is opposed by marketing manager Harold Young, who qualified this past week.
Bechtel filed a written report in early July, which is not posted on the finance commissions website. But his electronically filed report from April 5 lists $3,221.21 in contributions and $135.53 in spending, leaving $3,085.68 on hand.
In District 3, Councilwoman Elaine Lucas faces former school board member Terry Tripp. Tripp doesnt have a report posted online, but Lucas report shows $8,400 in contributions, spending of $4,545, and $3,855 on hand.
Former Bibb County Commission candidate Mallory Jones III, Councilwoman Beverly K. Olson and former Councilman Theron Ussery are vying for the District 4 seat.
Jones doesnt have a report on file; Olsons electronically filed report from July 10 says she had raised $7,351.85, spent $1,621.29 and still had $5,730.56.
The state website says Ussery sent in a written report July 4, but no figures are posted. Ussery himself said hell file again Sept. 2, the date most candidates are waiting for. His campaign is going well, but its hard for those seeking commission seats to raise much, he said. All the big money is being sucked up by the mayors race, Ussery said -- especially Mayor Robert Reicherts campaign, which has raised more than $165,000.
I need a tenth of what Reicherts got, Ussery said.
Ussery wants to raise enough to hand out yard signs to all who want them, and hes getting requests from people who didnt ask for them in his previous campaigns. But most of his effort is door-to-door work rather than fundraising, he said.
Im walking and talking, Ussery said.
In District 5, all three candidates -- Bibb County Commissioner Bert Bivins III, landlord Jon Carson and Councilman Frank Tompkins -- filed finance reports in early July. Bivins, whose report also is listed under his previous county commission race heading, said he received $4,886.50, spent $2,661.99 and had $2,224.51 still available.
Carson reported raising $1,198.08, spending $925.60 and having $272.48 on hand. Tompkins report lists contributions of $4,472.50, spending of $4,402.67, and $69.83 on hand.
In the four-way District 6 race, Councilman Ed DeFore is the only contender with a report on file. He reported raising $3,300 and spending $1,820, with $1,480 remaining on July 1. His opponents are former Bibb County Commission candidate Robert Abbott; sheet-metal mechanic Chhor Chav, who qualified last week; and former Macon Finance Director Adah Roberts.
Among the District 7 candidates, software designer Eric Arnold is the only one to file a report so far. His filing shows $425 raised and $58.39 spent, leaving him with $366.61 at the start of July.
Arnolds opponents are country club manager Barry Bell and retired Bibb County sheriffs Maj. Warren Scotty Shepherd.
In District 8, former City Council candidate Regina Davis reports raising $1,300 and spending all but $10.42 of that by July 4. Her finances havent changed much since then, she said.
Obviously were not spending a lot of money, and we dont have a lot, Davis said.
She hasnt heard about the financial status of her opponents, incumbent Councilmen Charles Jones and Virgil Watkins Jr., but she doubts theyre seriously lacking money.
But its not cash shes counting on, Davis said.
If youre able to get it, thats great, she said. Its not just one of the personal things that Id like to focus on. Like Ussery, shes concentrating on going door to door to introduce herself, she said.
Jones electronically filed a report July 8, but it shows no money raised or spent. No report for Watkins was posted on the state website.
Finally, in the two-way race for the District 9 seat, newly qualified candidate Al Tillman, a local activist, hasnt yet filed a report. His opponent, City Council President James Timley, filed a July 8 report that shows $500 raised, $450 spent and $50 on hand.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.