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With runoff in mind, candidates dig into their pockets

Three Democratic congressional candidates have dug deep into their pockets as they wage a battle within a battle: To become the Mecklenburg candidate in an expected 12th District runoff.

New reports show Sen. Malcolm Graham loaned his campaign $15,000 this month, and now has $52,575 invested in the race.

George Battle III, the school board’s general counsel, loaned his campaign $10,000.

And trial attorney Curtis Osborne continued to contribute to his own campaign. He’s now given or loaned himself nearly $115,000.

The three are the only Mecklenburg candidates in a six-way race for the seat long held by Democratic Rep. Mel Watt, who left in January to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Two Guilford County candidates have out-raised all their rivals.

State Rep. Alma Adams of Greensboro has raised more than $386,000 with the help of groups representing women, organized labor and teachers.

State Rep. Marcus Brandon of High Point has raised nearly $254,000 with a network of progressive supporters from around the country. The sixth candidate, Rajive Patel of Winston-Salem, hasn’t filed a report.

Given the number of candidates, most analysts believe it’s unlikely anyone will get the 40 percent needed to win on May 6. Many expect a July 15 runoff. And many expect one candidate in it will be Adams, the only woman and the one with support from groups able to mobilize voters.

“Whoever is going to come out of Mecklenburg is probably going to have a runoff,” said state Rep. Carla Cunningham, a Charlotte Democrat. “And I believe the other person is going to be Alma.”

Battle isn’t willing to concede the race will move to a runoff.

“We’re prepared to be in a runoff, but we’re fighting to win it outright,” he said.

Graham said he loaned his campaign money as a show of faith.

“I’m all in, and I’m in it to win,” he said. “I can’t ask people to invest in my candidacy if I’m unwilling to do it myself.”

More than half of the $194,000 Osborne has raised has come out his own pocket. He said that’s inevitable with three candidates from one county running. There were four before James Mitchell dropped out this month.

“With so many people in Mecklenburg County reaching out for the money that’s here, there’s not enough money to go around,” he said. “To be viable, you have to spend some of your own money.”

The personal investments are helping candidates mount late efforts to get out their votes. Battle, for example, began making robo-calls and sending out a wave of campaign fliers this week.

Graham, for one, has urged Mecklenburg voters to keep the seat in the county that’s held it for two decades.

State Sen. Joel Ford, a Charlotte Democrat who has stayed publicly neutral, said it may be easier for Charlotte candidates to raise money after May 6.

“The local establishment is not convinced there’s a clear winner from Mecklenburg,” he said. “Once the dust settles, you’ll see this community rally around the Mecklenburg candidate.”

Morrill: 704-358-5059
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