With strong backing from women’s groups, state Rep. Alma Adams of Greensboro out-raised her Democratic rivals and holds a wide financial edge in the race to replace Mel Watt in Congress.
New reports show Adams raised nearly $353,000 and has a 3-to-1 cash advantage over her nearest opponent heading into the May 6 primary in the 12th Congressional District.
Meanwhile, two other Democrats have tapped national fundraising networks while three Charlotte candidates compete for local dollars, a fight that drove one from the race.
This week’s withdrawal of James “Smuggie” Mitchell left six Democrats and two Republicans vying to replace Watt, a Charlotte Democrat who in January took over the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
The crowded Democratic field could make it likely that no one gets the 40 percent necessary to avoid a runoff. Adams, the only woman running in a district where 56 percent of registered voters are women, appears poised to do well.
“Adams you would have to say is winning the money race and is well-positioned, ” said political scientist John Dinan of Wake Forest University. “(But) at the end of the day the fundamentals of the district do favor a Charlotte-area candidate.”
A runoff between the top two finishers would take place July 15.
The 12th District winds from Charlotte to Greensboro; 52 percent is in Mecklenburg County, 27 percent in Guilford.
Adams got money from groups representing not just women but teachers and organized labor. On top of that, Emily’s List, a group that backs Democratic, pro-abortion rights women, is spending nearly $43,000 on mailings for her.
“I’m proud to have that support from these groups,” Adams said Wednesday. “They want a fighter. They know that’s what I’ve done and will do.”
Adams had $115,000 on hand at the end of March. State Rep. Marcus Brandon of High Point was next with $36,600.
Brandon, the state’s only openly gay lawmaker and a former presidential campaign fundraiser, tapped a national base of liberal and gay rights donors in raising $249,000. In the first three months of the year, 90 percent of his identified donations came from out of state.
Charlotte Democrat Curtis Osborne plugged into a national network of trial lawyers in raising $193,361. Nearly 70 percent of the money he raised from identified donors in the last quarter came from outside North Carolina.
He also lent or gave his campaign nearly $115,000.
George Battle III, a political newcomer and general counsel for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board, raised more than $227,000. Though he out-raised everybody but Adams in the first quarter, he had less than $31,000 in the bank at the end of March.
“It’s a credit to (Adams) that she’s been able to get as much out-of-state money as she has,” he said. “But as we’ve seen time and time again, money is important but money is not everything.”
Malcolm Graham, a state senator, has raised $166,000 but had less in the bank – $12,800 – than any of his major rivals. But he said he’s confident he’ll have what he needs.
“When you’ve got one candidate in Greensboro and four others in Charlotte the math becomes tricky for a Charlotte-based candidate,” he said. “That’s why it’s important we rally around the one in Charlotte with the best chance of winning otherwise we lose the seat to Greensboro.”
Mitchell, who plans to endorse Battle, raised just $28,000. He said he struggled to raise money in part because of what he called the “toxic” environment that followed former Democratic Mayor Patrick Cannon’s arrest on federal corruption charges.
Mitchell said donors he expected to give $1,000 gave only $100 or $200.
“I think the whole city of Charlotte has been kind of in a shock mode,” he said.
In the Republican race, former Charlotte broadcaster Vince Coakley raised nearly $56,000. He had more in the bank than all but three Democratic candidates. Staff writer Gavin Off contributed.