Chalk winning Warner Robins campaign funds race

chwright@macon.comOctober 17, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- Campaigns cost money, and in the race to garner the most contributions for the mayoral election, Chuck Chalk is out front so far.

The latest campaign contributions forms filed earlier this month show each candidate has his or her own strategy in raising funds -- some going for big bucks, others going for small bucks and one going for no bucks -- and spending those dollars. Some candidates said gaining those contributions hasn’t been easy for several reasons.

Chalk, 47, flubbed his campaign contribution disclosure forms, making it seem on the surface that candidate Randy Toms was leading in fundraising. Chalk failed to add together the contributions and expenditures from previous reports, because, he said, he thought the electronic system would automatically do the math.

Once added together, Chalk had raised $24,060 as of the Sept. 30 report. Toms, 53, raised $22,769. Joe Musselwhite, 60, raised $17,799. Mike Brashear, 65, raised $13,231. Eva Folse, 66, had $7,000 -- all from herself. And Daron Lee, 43, raised $6,473.

Though just barely missing the most raised, Toms managed to keep the most cash on hand. He still had $7,023 at the time his report was filed.

“I tried my best to spend money wisely,” Toms said. “I haven’t just been throwing money away.”

Musselwhite had $6,352 on hand, Chalk had $3,815, Folse had $3,279, Lee had $6,352 and Brashear had $462.

“I don’t spend the money until I have the money,” Brashear said.

Brashear, Chalk and Toms said contributions have been hard to obtain in a tough economy, coupled with 12 Warner Robins candidates in the City Council races and others now running for U.S. Senate who are also seeking funds.

“I had been told it was going to take a whole lot more money to run this campaign,” Toms said. “But I think that since everybody is running into the same situations, it’s going to take less.”

Most candidates have contributed their own money to their respective campaigns.

Brashear loaned himself $5,000, and Chalk loaned himself $3,100. Both said they will repay themselves with campaign funds if any are leftover.

Lee contributed $150 he said won’t be paid back through the campaign, adding, “If nobody invests in my campaign, it should be me.”

The $7,000 Folse gave her campaign won’t be repaid either, she said. She said she may lower the amount, which she has allocated on a personal credit card, to $5,000. She filed a paper disclosure form, but an electronic form must be filed if contributions exceed $5,000.

“I won’t be obligated to anyone when I go into office,” Folse said, of her strategy to not solicit contributions.

Spending

Most of the money Folse spent was on the $3,000 qualifying fee. The rest ($721) was spent on signs.

Chalk, who has purchased the most billboards and banners, spent the majority of his money ($12,898) on signs. The remainder of his expenditures were on wristbands, T-shirts, bumper stickers, buttons, decorations for his headquarters and a few events.

“It’s persistent,” Chalk said of his oversized signs. “It’s attention getting. I like them better than I do the yard signs. The yard signs are visually noisy.”

Brashear also bought space on overhead signs. He spent $5,000 on two electronic billboards. He spent $3,313 on ground-level signs and the remainder of his budget on magnets, time on the “Mix in the Morning” radio/television show and T-shirts.

The master of multiple ground-level signs has been Musselwhite, whose 4-foot-by-32-inch black and yellow signs have become a city staple in the last two months. He has spent $3,143 on the signs and materials to build the frames.

“I’d rather put out the A-frames,” Musselwhite said. “Those billboards are just in one spot, and when, you’re driving, they’re hard to see.”

Musselwhite has also spent a large chunk of his funds ($3,416) on advertisements. Aside from his website, he advertised with six different organizations. He also spent money on a voter’s list from the Georgia Secretary of State, T-shirts, door hangers and a Northside High School Hasbeens benefit golf tournament.

Toms also spent a decent portion of his budget ($1,160) on advertisements. Additionally, he bought campaign signs, buttons, T-shirts and website design.

The biggest expense Toms made was $6,000 to Darkhorse Campaigns. He said he used the consultant early this year because not only was he new to politics, but he spent much of his time with his mother in hospice and needed someone to lay the groundwork for his campaign.

Besides Folse, Lee had some of the least diverse expenditures. He spent $800 on signs and $545 on T-shirts.

He said his campaign got off to a slow start, but he isn’t discouraged by being last in the fundraising race so far.

“The funds that you raise do not represent the service you can provide,” Lee said. “We want them to give, but we want them to get something in return that’s priceless: That’s a government that is inclusive of all people and that will work for them.”

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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