Total expenses for local PACs to be determined in May primary campaign

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 15, 2018

SALISBURY — Wondering just how much local political action committees spent during the primary election cycle?

You’ll have some time to wait yet, despite submissions of first-quarter finance reports that were due April 30.

In Rowan County, two PACs focused their resources on influencing election outcomes: Southern Initiatives Inc. and The Rowan Alliance.

Local businessman Jake Alexander signed for both at the Board of Elections Office.

In total, the two PACs reported just $4,627 in expenditures in the first quarter of the year.

By comparison, Rowan Alliance alone reported expenditures in excess of $25,000 in the 2014 election.

So why the difference? Alexander said the answer is simple: the committees have yet to be invoiced for most of their marketing expenditures.

These marketing efforts were many, including Facebook sponsored posts, digital and print ads in the Salisbury Post, and direct mailers, to name a few.

“Everything we do is at the blessing and guidance of our attorney in Raleigh,” Alexander said. “… As you can imagine, we weren’t going to file a report we knew would need to be amended.”

Southern Initiatives, an independent-expenditure PAC, targeted the city of Salisbury referendum on Hotwire Communications’ lease of Fibrant, encouraging residents to vote in favor of the lease.

In a report dated April 24, $4,402 in expenditures was listed: $1,000 for radio ads on Memories 1280. The remaining $3,402 went to digital and print ads in the Salisbury Post.

No donations were reported. The lease was approved with more than 81 percent of the vote.

Rowan Alliance focused on the Rowan County Board of Commissioners race, seeking the re-election of incumbents Greg Edds, Judy Klusman and Jim Greene.

Between a April 21 report and May 6 48-hour notice, the alliance received $20,500.

Contributors included Matt Barr for $1,000, Edward Norvell for $2,000, Richard Reamer for $1,000, Corporate Leasing Services for $5,000, Klumac Partners for $10,000 and Mark Ritchie for $1,500.

Only $225 was reported in expenditures, going to Roger W. Knight P.A. in Raleigh for legal services.

But the tallies will grow, said Alexander. Rowan Alliance paid an invoice for Salisbury Post advertising on April 23 totaling $6,316.50.

He also said both committees have received and paid invoices for additional radio ads, estimating a total of $12,000 has been spent between the two.

The final tally is to be determined, but Alexander said he plans to file his next report early once the remaining bills are paid.

Nancy Evans, elections director for Rowan County, said the midyear reports will run through the end of June.

Regardless of the sums spent, Alexander said the people involved in the PACs were “stunned at the result” of the May primary.

“It would be an understatement to say that we’re very pleased,” he said. “As you know, we did this four years ago. … We felt strong enough four years ago against Jim Sides specifically and this time about Jim Sides and Craig Pierce.”

Accordingly, Rowan Alliance advertisements targeted these challenging candidates, with some jabs at newcomer Mike Julian.

Alexander said that many probably overstated the impact of the PACs’ efforts on the outcome of the primary.

But he said the advancement of incumbents to the general election is “wonderful for Rowan County.”

“It’s wonderful for the variety of issues that are so important for our community: economic development, education and, most importantly, the tone of political debate from some people.”

He said he credits Edds, Greene, and Klusman for a change in atmosphere in the debate and discussion among Rowan County leaders.

“We especially fault Jim Sides for the previous negative tone, and we have for decades,” he said. “For him to lose is a real victory for Rowan County.”

On the campaign trail, Sides lashed out against the alliance’s direct-mail campaign.

“The choice is yours. You can believe the garbage that comes in your mail,” he said in an email to voters. ” … Or you can believe the truth, that in spite of the many faults he may have, Jim Sides is not quite as bad as some people tell you he is.”

Sides apologized for the email during a May 1 candidates forum. He ran second to last of six Republican candidates, ahead of Julian by just three votes.

Pierce, who trailed Klusman by 2,407 votes, took the negative campaigning in stride. He said he is pleased with the way things are moving since he announced his premature candidacy. Although his commission seat was not up for re-election until 2020, he was running this year for another seat on the board.

“I accomplished what I set out to do, which is to get this water and sewer project moving on the southern end of the county,” said Pierce. “That to me is the goal. … To me, I didn’t lose; I just didn’t win.”