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Money flows into races for primary
Tam totes largest campaign warchest
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Forsyth County News

If votes were measured by campaign contributions, Brian Tam would receive more than three times the support of his nearest opponent in Tuesday's primary.

Campaign disclosure reports were due June 30 at the local elections office, with a grace period until July 8.

The reports cover the period from April 1 to June 30.

With multiple $150 to $2,000 contributions from attorneys, businesses, developers and individuals, the reports show that Tam has raised $32,700, which includes a $5,000 loan to himself.

"I think people feel I've done a good job and that's why they've contributed to the campaign," said Tam, who is seeking re-election as the District 2 county commissioner.

"I've got a broad base of support. I think my record speaks for itself."

Tam has also received contributions from Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt and District 27 state Sen. Jack Murphy, a Cumming Republican.

Though he has outraised his opponents, Tam said money does not dictate the winner.

"History shows us that is not the case," he said.

The District 2 contest features four Republican candidates, creating the likelihood no one will get 50 percent of the vote and the top two vote-getters will advance to an Aug. 5 runoff.

Closest to Tam in fundraising is challenger Charles Smith.

Smith has raised about $9,369, though more than half of that was from a $4,939 personal loan, according to disclosure reports.

About $585 of his contributions came from the Forsyth SPLOST 6 Committee, which helped prioritize transportation projects to be funded by the recently approved 1-cent sales tax extension. Smith served on the committee.

Joseph Moore raised the least amount of money in the District 2 race, with just $190.

Michael Busse collected $6,940. Nearly $1,100 of that came from a loan, but $1,500 was from County Commissioner Jim Harrell's election campaign. Charles Laughinghouse, chairman of the commission, gave $250.

District 2 covers most of south Forsyth. Two other commission seats, Districts 4 and 5, also are on the ballot. Candidates qualify by district, but are elected countywide.

Both Laughinghouse and Harrell each gave $500 to Jim Boff, who is running in District 5, which includes Cumming and much of eastern Forsyth.

The post is being vacated by Linda Ledbetter, who chose not to run.

"I took a look at the people I think will essentially support the wishes of the people as expressed in the last election," Laughinghouse said. "[Busse and Boff] are the people I think will support the wishes of the people."

Of the four candidates in District 5, Boff currently leads in campaign contributions, with more than $15,000 raised since April 1.

After spending about $16,100 on his campaign, however, he has less than $1,220 remaining in his fund, according to reports.

His closest opponent, Julie Tressler, raised $6,955 on top of a $3,600 self-loan. But, according to her disclosure report, she has spent it all.

Terry Sweeney received just one contribution, $1,000 from Frank Simpson. After purchasing sign stakes and gas for his campaign, he has less than $150 on hand.

In perhaps the most heated of the three commission races on Tuesday's ballot, Patrick Bell raised more than twice the amount of incumbent David Richard since April 1 in the race for District 4, which spans north Forsyth.

About half of Bell's nearly $14,000 in contributions came from a $7,000 loan to himself. And after more than $11,500 in expenses, he has less than $3,400 remaining, reports show.

Richard reported raising $5,050 since April 1 and has more than $8,000 on hand, courtesy of previous contributions, including $1,000 from Laughinghouse in April 2007.

Recent support included donations from a management consultant, attorney and doctor.

Democrat Jon Flack, who will face either Bell or Richard in November, has raised about $3,500 since he announced his candidacy.

In the race for the District 4 Board of Education seat, Darla Sexton Light has raised more than $7,000, reports show. Combined with a self-loan for $2,200, Light reported more than $9,125 in contributions.

Her only Republican opposition, Fletcher McCone, has not raised any money, reporting only a $1,384 loan to himself to cover his qualifying fee and signs.

Incumbent Ronnie Pinson is not seeking re-election.

For Board of Education incumbents Nancy Roche in District 5 and Tom Cleveland in District 3, raising money hasn't been a priority.

"I've been getting out to people and reaching out to people rather than spending a lot of money," said Roche, who chairs the board. "I'm hoping my record of the past eight years has been positive and that people will vote for me because the schools are doing well and they want to continue in the same vein."

Roche received support from fellow board member Ann Crow, a $200 donation, and loaned herself about $350. Her opponent, Tim Plotner, has raised about $2,200, including $1,600 he loaned himself.

Like Roche, Cleveland received a $200 donation from Crow. With the exception of one other $200 donation, the remainder of his $1,686 has come from his personal account.

His lone opponent, Edward Castle, received about $710 from contributions of less than $101 and loaned his campaign $4,000.

Castle, along with McCone and Plotner, has received nearly $1,500 in in-kind contributions from Bellesca Inc. for designing their Web sites. The company, which is also responsible for donating Busse's Web site, is owned by Chris Goldston.

Goldston, a former member of the Forsyth County Republican Party, declined to comment on why he decided to primarily support candidates running against incumbents.

Incumbent Sheriff Ted Paxton raised twice as much money as the combined total of his two challengers, Scott Pruitt and Brian Millard.

Millard listed no contributions. He has purchased his campaign materials using a $3,000 loan to himself. He did not, however, indicated how he paid for his $2,424 qualifying fee, which is required on disclosures.

Pruitt took out a loan to pay for his qualifying fee. Since then, he has neither raised nor spent any additional money.

Paxton has raised more than $11,000, none of which came from a loan. After spending more than he raised since April 1, Paxton still has nearly $22,900 on hand from previous fundraising. Recent donors include various local businesses, including car dealerships and attorneys.

In the race for tax commissioner, challenger Bill Jenkins has raised no outside money. His expenditures for ads and brochures have been funded entirely through a $5,000 loan to himself.

Incumbent Matthew Ledbetter reported taking in nearly $18,000 and spending more than $14,000.

Failing to meet the filing deadline were: Sheila Elliott, a Democrat running for the

District 4 school board seat; Walter Waddell, a candidate for District 5 county commissioner; and one of the three hopefuls for Clerk of Court. Their violations have been reported to the state ethics board for review.