Politics & Government

Fundraising ramps up in 2016 statewide races

Sen. Josh Stein of Raleigh, center, has $1.1 million in his campaign chest as he considers a run for attorney general. His fundraising so far has been the strongest of likely Council of State candidates.
Sen. Josh Stein of Raleigh, center, has $1.1 million in his campaign chest as he considers a run for attorney general. His fundraising so far has been the strongest of likely Council of State candidates. rwillett@newsobserver.com

Races for attorney general and lieutenant governor are expected to be closely contested next year, and early fundraising numbers reflect it.

While attention is focused on the governor’s race, candidates for the other prominent statewide offices are already posting six-figure fundraising numbers.

State Sen. Josh Stein, a Raleigh Democrat and likely candidate for attorney general, has raised the most, with $364,859 in the first six months of 2015 for a total of $1.11 million on hand.

That puts him close to incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who raised $363,494 in the same period and has $247,632 on hand.

Both are well ahead of their opponents: Democrat Linda Coleman, who’s making her second bid against Forest, and Republican Sen. Buck Newton, who joined the attorney general’s race in early June.

Meanwhile, Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson is the only Council of State incumbent so far whose report shows no money raised in 2015. The Democrat has just $9,448 on hand – fueling speculation she might not seek a fourth term.

Atkinson recently said she hasn’t decided yet if she’ll run again.

Attorney general

Stein’s heavy fundraising comes despite the fact that he isn’t an official candidate yet.

“I am strongly considering running for attorney general so I can apply my eight years of experience as senior deputy attorney general to protect and serve the people of North Carolina,” Stein said Friday.

He added that he’ll announce his decision “in the coming weeks and months,” with the timing “dependent on the session” at the legislature.

Stein’s fundraising far exceeds that of his fellow Senate Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue of Raleigh raised just $7,255 during the reporting period.

Stein’s top donors – 30 people who made the maximum contribution of $5,100 – include seven CEOs of local companies. Among them are Jim Goodmon of Capitol Broadcasting, Robert Page of Replacements Inc., and Todd McGowan of Haddock Collision.

Newton, who’s the only official candidate for attorney general, has raised about $200,000 in June after his announcement, campaign manager Doug Raymond said. He raised no money prior to June.

“Buck really did not make a decision with his family until shortly before he announced,” Raymond said. “That literally represents a month of fundraising. Our goal was $200,000 cash on hand.”

Lieutenant governor

Forest is leading Coleman in fundraising so far this year, but the Democrat is in a better financial position than she was in 2011 approaching her first matchup with Forest.

Coleman raised $101,738 during the reporting period and has $48,341 on hand, according to campaign treasurer Anita McNeil. The former N.C. House member and state personnel director didn’t raise any money during the same period in the 2012 campaign.

That gave Forest a head start for 2012 because he raised $100,201 during the first half of 2011.

Other races

The campaign for labor commissioner is off to a slow start. Incumbent Republican Cherie Berry raised $16,525, while her challenger, former Raleigh mayor and Democrat Charles Meeker, posted $15,177 – all of it in contributions from himself.

Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, a Democrat, raised $77,697 so far this year and has $360,207 on hand. His opponent, Heather Grant, has about $700 on hand.

Campaign reports for other incumbent Council of State members – Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, State Treasurer Janet Cowell, State Auditor Beth Wood and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall – weren’t yet available Friday.

Top legislators bring in money

Here’s how much Republican leaders in the General Assembly raised in the first half of 2015:

House Speaker Tim Moore: $422,000

Senate leader Phil Berger: Unavailable

House Rules Chairman David Lewis: $129,500

Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca: $18,950

Senate Majority Leader and budget writer Harry Brown: $32,600

House budget writer Nelson Dollar: Unavailable