Jennifer Roberts has so far raised $302,277 for the upcoming Charlotte mayoral race, the most among Democrats and Republicans, according to the first campaign finance reports filed Friday.
Roberts, who announced her candidacy in May 2014, said two-thirds of her donors have given less than $200.
“My support comes from retirees, teachers, nurses,” said Roberts, a former county commissioner. “I am still finding new supporters.”
Her early announcement gave her a head start, and she released her report two weeks ago to tout how much she has collected. But the other candidates say they are raising money quickly as they prepare for the Sept. 15 party primaries.
Democrat Dan Clodfelter, the sitting mayor, has $182,904, though he started with about $37,000 in the bank from a previous campaign account. Clodfelter spent heavily, however, and has only $64,106 as of June 30, the last day for this finance report.
At-large council Democratic council member David Howard has $158,876. And Democrat Michael Barnes, another at-large council member, raised $19,350. But he also started with a little more than $30,000 in the bank from his previous race.
Among the four prominent Democratic candidates, Barnes is last in fundraising.
But he had a similar situation in 2013, when he ran for an at-large seat and was out-raised significantly by Howard and Vi Lyles, who also won seats that year. He received the most votes among all at-large candidates, despite having a minimal campaign presence.
“I did what I've always done – raise enough to execute my strategy and be as responsible with my campaign money as I am with the taxpayers' money,” Barnes said this week.
Money also wasn’t the primary factor two years ago in the mayor’s race. Republican Edwin Peacock raised $123,000 more than Democrat Patrick Cannon, but lost the election by six percentage points.
On the Republican side, Peacock, who is running again, has raised $130,000. Businessman Scott Stone has about $104,000.
The Democrats may have to run a gauntlet of three elections to become mayor.
There is the Sept. 15 primary. If no one receives 40 percent of the vote, there would be a run-off in Oct. 6. Then there is the general election in November against either Peacock or Stone.
“You better have enough money to go on TV a week after the primary,” said Republican political consultant Larry Shaheen, who isn’t working for any of the mayoral candidates.
Peacock, a financial representative with Northwestern Mutual, said he’s pleased with his fundraising, since he said he started his campaign “with zero in the bank account.”
His support has come from a broad base of businessmen, bankers, developers and attorneys.
His top donor, with $5,100, is John Correnti, the chief executive of Steel Development Co. in Blytheville, Ark. Michael and Wendy Kahn, owners of the Charlotte Checkers, each gave $5,100.
Peacock said the real estate and development industry seems to be cautious this election, and waiting to see who emerges from the Democratic primary before writing checks.
“The real estate industry has largely been an equal opportunity supporter (of Democrats and Republicans) and they are largely waiting,” Peacock said.
Stone has raised about $104,000. Among his largest donors: auto executive Felix Sabates ($2,000); Bill Crowder of Crowder Construction ($2,000); and businessman Jay Faison ($2,000).
The backbone of Roberts’s money has come from small donors, though some have written large checks.
Tim Bice, a Wells Fargo executive, gave $3,500. Phillip Blumenthal of the Blumenthal Foundation donated $2,500. Crandall Bowles of the Springs Company gave $1,500.
Roberts has $204,601 left to spend, as of June 30.
Howard is an executive with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, which builds affordable housing. In his previous campaigns for City Council, Howard received a large amount of support from his peers in the development community.
So far Howard has received support from Realtors, land-use attorneys and others associated with building. Retired banker Hugh McColl ($1,000) and former mayor Harvey Gantt ($500) are also supporting his campaign.
Executives with New York-based Titan Advertising, which has a city contract to sell bus ads, also gave.
Clodfelter, who was appointed mayor after Cannon’s arrest on federal corruption charges, is running as the incumbent. He is an attorney with Parker Poe and is well-versed in development issues.
Most of his donors are from the city’s top-tier law firms, including Moore & Van Allen, where he practiced before becoming mayor.
John Belk and Thomas Belk, who have ties to the department store chain, gave Clodfelter a combined $3,5000; former N.C. Senate candidate Erskine Bowles gave $500; and National Gypsum owner C.D. Spangler gave $5,000.
Sam Hardiman contributed