After Monday’s rather mundane explanation of how the campaign finance system works — and you can thank me for the nap that followed — hopefully today’s details are a little more riveting.
This time of year through the end of October I’m glued to local and state campaign database websites to see how much money candidates are collecting and spending. Hey, it’s what I do.
I’ll be writing plenty about this money stuff over the next few months and today we’ll look at county commission candidates.
First, the rule: Candidates must report all monthly collections and spending. Nothing is overlooked. The reports are due the 10th of the following month. March reports are due April 10. Individual contributions are capped at $1,000.
Some observations from an initial look at campaign finance reports, starting with Citrus County Commission District 2:
— Diana Finegan, first candidate out of the chute, shows collections of $39,543 and spending $12,521. The collections include $15,000 she loaned her campaign. Her big-ticket contributors include attorney Bill Grant, Crystal River community leader Kennedy Smith and Crump’s Landing LLC.
Finegan’s report includes a host of $40 and $80 contributions from a Jan. 31 campaign kickoff at Crump’s. It’s difficult to pin down the exact turnout from contributions alone, but I counted 153 individual donations of about that amount right around that time.
It wasn’t a massive raiser of funds: About $6,000, and she netted less than half due to the costs of the event itself. Sometimes it’s not about the money. Diana had a great kickoff.
And smart spending: $1,002 for direct mail, $4,259 for yard signs. That means getting her name out to people before the head-to-head campaigning starts. (Though candidates need to find balance on yard signs. They’re cute now but by late July we’ll hate every single one of them.)
— Stacey Worthington, who announced her candidacy in January, is disappointingly quiet. Her account shows $12,450, but $10,000 of that she loaned the campaign. Stacey has her campaign kickoff fundraiser 6 p.m. Monday, April 4, at Seagrass Waterfront on the Homosassa River; after that, the campaign should have a good idea whether the pace is OK or needs a kick.
I am really hoping for a good matchup between Diana and Stacey. Both are successful businesswomen who bring much to the table.
— In District 4, John Murphy gets the Just Wright Citrus gold star for an excellent start to his campaign without hiring someone to tell him what to do. John opened his campaign on Jan. 29 with a $500 loan, and, through essentially one full month, reported $12,175 in contributions from a total of only 22 donors.
That means lots of high-paying donors and John’s early on reads a like an incumbent’s: Carol Kimbrough, Gulf to Lakes Associates, Steve and Jewel Lamb, Diane Damron, Kennedy Smith. I have no doubt more will be coming.
That shouldn't be a surprise considering the work he’s done for the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce as its legislative affairs chairman. Murphy has a ton of support in the business community and he’s gobbling it up right off the bat. Experience suggests that’s an excellent campaign strategy.
(John, as I’ll keep reminding you, works at the Chronicle and is married to Publisher Trina Murphy. I covered this before, so no editorial judgment here. I mention it because people should know.)
— Philip Nichols Jr. donated $500 to his campaign and that’s it. No fundraising. No other donations.
Other than the name — Nichols Lumber is well known in the Citrus County construction field — I can’t tell you anything about him. Couldn’t find a website and no campaign Facebook page.
I reached out to Nichols via email Monday evening to find out what's going on with his campaign. He responded that he's getting a mail piece ready to go.
If ever there was a year to campaign vigorously, this is it. Citrus County has a ton of challenges and I’m hoping both Worthington and Nichols ramp it up soon.
Here’s the deal. Unless you’re a huge name, a candidate can’t just breeze through spring and turn on the burners a month or two before the Aug. 23 primary. None of these four names are big enough to pull that off.
That makes for an exciting campaign season during one of this county’s most pivotal election years.
Candidates really need to hear from voters. This is the perfect week to do that at the county fair. Stop by, say hello and give ‘em an earful.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.