Two Democrats from Guilford County have tapped into national fundraising networks to raise more money than their Charlotte rivals in the 12th Congressional District race.
New finance reports suggest that state Reps. Alma Adams of Greensboro and Marcus Brandon of High Point could challenge Mecklenburg County’s 22-year hold on the six-county district.
At least seven Democrats are running for the seat vacated last month when Democratic Rep. Mel Watt of Charlotte resigned to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency. It’s the first time the seat has come open since 1992.
The district snakes through six counties from Charlotte to Greensboro. It is predominantly Democratic and African-American. Half the voters live in Mecklenburg.
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The candidates are running in a special election. Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, scheduled it to overlap with the year’s regularly scheduled elections that start with a May 6 primary. A probable July runoff would follow, with a November general election.
According to new finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Brandon, a two-term lawmaker from High Point, led the field by raising $213,804. The reports reflect fundraising and spending through Dec. 31.
And Adams, an 11-term legislator and the only woman in the race, raised $202,151. But at the end of the year she had more cash on hand – $92,337 – than any other candidate.
Adams has been endorsed by Emily’s List – Democratic women who support abortion rights – labor organizations and education groups, backing which has bought contributions from around the country.
“It shows that we have the support, the organization and the resources to win,” Adams said Monday.
Brandon, North Carolina’s only openly gay lawmaker, has been a featured candidate of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a political action committee with a national contributor base.
Brandon, a former national fundraiser for liberal presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, also has tapped into a network of progressive donors.
“As long as I can raise money from progressive networks and the LGBT community, I don’t have to be beholden,” he said. “I don’t have interest groups on my finance report. This gives me an ability to be very independent.”
Susan Roberts, a political scientist at Davidson College, said the two Guilford Democrats “have a distinctiveness that the other candidates in Mecklenburg County don’t yet have.”
“Both of them have outside funding sources,” she said, “and they’re raising a considerable amount of money.”
Among three Charlotte Democrats who filed reports, school board attorney George Battle III raised the most, with $161,966.
Lawyer Curtis Osborne raised $123,405 with the help of $75,000 in personal loans.
And state Sen. Malcolm Graham raised $103,005.
Former Charlotte City Council member James Mitchell has yet to file with the FEC. Neither have Democratic newcomer Brad Craver nor Vince Coakley, a former Charlotte broadcaster and the only Republican to have announced.
Last summer Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found that Graham and Adams were the only candidates with double-digit support among voters, with Graham leading 31 percent to 22 percent. Adams said that’s changed.
“When I look at what he did, I clearly outperformed him and everybody else, really, for this quarter,” Adams said.
“I don’t have any worries,” Graham said. “We will have the human and the financial resources to be successful.”
‘Skin in the game’
Despite raising the most money among Mecklenburg candidates, Battle had less in the bank than anyone – $7,474.
“We just spent it a little bit earlier than other folks did,” he said. “We’re just going to focus on our campaign. It’s going to be won on the ground. … It’s not going to be won on TV, it’s not going to be won on the radio.”
Osborne, making his first try, dug deep into his own pocket.
“You’ve got to be willing to put skin in the game,” he said. “If I can’t believe in myself, how can I expect someone else to believe in me?”