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Political hopefuls raising money
Campaign season still in early stages
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Forsyth County News
Candidates are coming and going. Some are raising money and some are giving money.

But until qualifying for the 2010 elections closes April 30, anything can happen.

Perhaps the best way to learn about future local and state officials, one political observer said, is to follow the money.

“We tend to focus on the fundraising here in the early stage, because there’s not much else to focus on,” said Charles Bullock, a legislative and Southern politics professor at the University of Georgia.

“But if they’re really serious candidates, then they tend not to wait until the last minute anymore.”

And while money may be a factor, it doesn’t always determine winners, Bullock said.

“More often than not, the candidate who has the biggest war chest wins, but there are a certain number of exceptions,” he said. “In 2002, where Roy Barnes had many times more money than Sonny [Perdue] did and yet Roy’s practicing law and Sonny’s the governor.”

Joseph Mann isn’t waiting to raise funds.

The Democrat announced in May his intent to run against District 51 state Sen. Chip Pearson, a Republican incumbent from Dawsonville.

Mann, a Mineral Bluff resident, has raised about $1,000, though he said his efforts will kick up in the coming months.

“We are working extremely hard on raising money now, especially during the time that the assembly is in session, because we have more of an opportunity now with fewer people on the trail,” he said. “We’re going to be making a competitive amount of money.”

Because state legislators can’t raise money during the General Assembly, Pearson will have to make do with what he has on hand, about $102,000.

No Republican hopefuls have raised money to run against Pearson, whose district includes a portion of Forsyth and seven other counties.

If he doesn’t draw opposition in the July primary, Pearson will have even more time to campaign for the fall.

District 24 state Rep. Tom Knox does have to worry about the primary, but not for his current seat.

The Cumming resident is vying with at least seven other Republicans and one Democrat to be the state’s next insurance commissioner.  

Having raised more than $360,000, District 47 state Sen. Ralph Hudgens by far leads the pack, with Knox and two other candidates trailing by more than $200,000.

Knox took out a $78,000 personal loan, as did Forsyth County resident Gerry Purcell, who loaned his campaign more than $82,000.

Including their loans, Knox has raised nearly $110,000 and Purcell has raised $105,600.

For Purcell, the loan was part of his strategy early on in 2009.

“I’m the outsider. I’m the new guy,” he said. “We had virtually no name recognition in Georgia. So instead of spending my time trying to raise dollars, I spent my time trying to build a grass-roots organization throughout the state. The result of that has been very positive.”

Knox said his loan is helping him keep pace with foes. But with two other state legislators also barred from raising funds during the session, Knox said he’s not currently worried about funding.

“Money is really important, but I don’t think it’s as important in this election as it is in a lot of other elections,” he said. “Nobody raises that much money in this race and nobody is going to raise as much as has to be raised.

“All the candidates are finding out that it’s a lot harder to raise money than it was ... so we’re going to have to work longer and harder to do it.”
One race in which no one is raising any money is Knox’s current seat.

The only person to publicly declare interest in the post, Forsyth County Commissioner Brian Tam, dropped out last week. Tam will instead serve out the three years remaining on his commission term.

Knox said he doesn’t expect many people to make any announcements for his seat just yet.

“I think a lot of them are making sure I qualify before they make up their mind,” he said.

So far, no one is raising money to run against District 27 state Sen. Jack Murphy. The Republican from Cumming has raised more than $25,000 since summer and currently has about $83,000 on hand.

District 9 state Rep. Amos Amerson, R-Dahlonega, has raised about $2,300 since his last disclosure and has only about $3,700 on hand.

But neither Stephen Gooch, who ran against Amerson in 2008, nor anyone else has raised any funds to campaign for the seat.

With Tam’s decision, just two of the five Forsyth County commissioners are up for re-election this year — District 3 Commissioner Jim Harrell and District 1 Commissioner Charles Laughinghouse.

Neither commissioner has raised any money since the last reporting period. Both said they are reviewing their options and will state their intentions in the near future.

Though Harrell appears to have no competition at this time, Pete Amos has received a $3,000 loan from his wife and has already spent the majority of it toward his District 1 campaign for Laughinghouse’s seat.  

Amos previously ran unsuccessfully for the District 1 commission seat in 2006, despite raising more than three times the contributions as Laughinghouse, who is also chairman of the commission.

According to Bullock, Georgia residents may see some interesting developments in state and local races over the next couple months.

“In terms of serious candidates for governor, I think we know who’s out there ... but when it comes to state legislators, county commissioners, local offices like that, then there’s a good chance we’ll see other people,” Bullock said.

“What we may also see is some incumbent legislators or local officials announcing along in March or even April that after having given it serious thought, they decided not to run for re-election.”