WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The two candidates for the Northwest Ward seat on the Winston-Salem City Council had similar amounts to spend as their campaigns headed into their final days, but a consultant says that the winner will be the one who can convince voters to go to the polls in what is likely to be a low turnout.
According to finance reports filed at the Forsyth County Board of Elections for the period ending Oct. 21, the campaign of Democrat Jeff MacIntosh reported $11,597.60 available in the final phase of the election, while the campaign of Republican Lida Hayes Calvert had $9,688.49.
However, political consultant Mike Horn, who is working for the campaign of Mayor Allen Joines, said that turnout will be low in the general election and that the Northwest Ward winner will be the candidate that best mobilizes his or her political base.
“They are not going to get a whole lot of spillover or any spillover from people coming out for other races,” Horn said. “The turnout in early voting will be half or less of what it was in the primary election, and that will be an indication. Democrats tend to vote early, and Republicans vote on Election Day. What it boils down to is that they have to get their bases out to vote.”
MacIntosh, who was victorious Sept. 10 in a three-candidate primary, reported raising $15,427.32 since Aug. 28, and his fundraising for the entire year totaled $28,388.81. MacIntosh spent $7,739 from Aug. 28 through Oct. 21, and had spent $16,791.21 total.
Voters in the Northwest Ward received a mailer for MacIntosh this week that was paid for separately by the N.C. Homeowners Alliance, based in Greensboro, which reported spending $5,900 on MacIntosh’s campaign. That money is not included in MacIntosh’s spending report since it was spent independently of the campaign.
Hayes Calvert raised only $3,826.01 during the last reporting period, but her total fundraising came to $29,486.91. She spent $13,847.63 during the last period, and her total campaign spending was $19,798.32.
If the contest for mayor were hard-fought, Horn said, ward candidates would expect to get votes from people who had turned out for the mayor’s race. Without such a contest, Horn said, it is hard to motivate voters to go to the polls.
Joines, a Democrat, is formally opposed by James Lee Knox, who suspended his campaign earlier in the year but left his name on the ballot. Horn said the mayor isn’t taking victory for granted, though.
“We are not so much running against another candidate as much as we are running against apathy,” Horn said. “Our biggest concern is that people will forget to vote or think they don’t need to vote. We are not taking it lightly.”
The Joines campaign reported spending $116,433.93 since Aug. 28, although most of that was on the primary as he battled Democrat Gardenia Henley for the party nomination. The Joines campaign reported total yearly spending of a little more than $175,000, but Joines still had almost $74,000 left in his campaign fund. Horn’s agency, Vela Strategic Marketing and Public Relations, was paid about $82,000 through Oct. 21 to carry out campaign activities for Joines.
“The majority of the campaign investment was in the primary,” Horn said. “Generally speaking, a strong, well-known and respected incumbent doesn’t have a challenger in the primary from their own party. In this case, we had to take the primary challenge very seriously, so we invested the resources that we felt we needed to invest to demonstrate the mayor’s strength from within his own party. We are glad to get the business, but not all of that money stayed with the agency. A lot of that is advertising, printing, media — things that are spread through the community to other suppliers.”
Apart from the Northwest Ward, campaign spending reports suggest the most spirited campaign was in the Northeast Ward, where an unaffiliated candidate, Keith King, had spent almost $4,000 in an effort to wrest the seat away from longtime incumbent Democrat Vivian Burke.
King’s Oct. 21 campaign report showed him having spent a little more than $10,000 total, with $4,500 available for the stretch run.
Burke had spent a little more than $6,000 total. A third candidate, Republican Michael Owens, reported spending nothing since Aug. 28 and having only $150 in his campaign fund.
The Northeast Ward has a heavy Democratic majority and has never been favorable territory for Republicans. King said his original intent was to run as a Democrat but he discovered his registration was unaffiliated so he ran anyway.
Horn said King’s challenge is to overcome what could be a large straight-party Democratic vote.
“It is tough,” Horn said. “Because of straight-party voting, they are going to lose a huge percentage of straight-party voters. As an unaffiliated candidate, it is going to be hard to make up that margin.”
In the other wards that had a contest, incumbents were outspending challengers — and sometimes by wide margins.
Incumbent Democrat D.D. Adams in the North Ward and GOP challenger Patricia Kleinmaier each reported having about $1,600 left as their campaigns wound down, but Adams had raised and spent more than twice the amount that Kleinmaier had over the entire campaign.
In the South Ward, incumbent Democrat Molly Leight had spent less than $600 between Aug. 21 and Oct. 21, and had nearly $5,000 on hand. Her GOP opponent, Nathan Jones, had not filed his report, but previous reports showed no campaign spending and only $100 available to the campaign.
In the Southwest Ward, incumbent Democrat Dan Besse had spent more than $8,000 through Oct. 21, while his GOP opponent, Donald Shaw, had certified at the start of his race that he would not be spending more than $1,000.
Incumbent Southeast Ward Democrat James Taylor faces a GOP opponent, Mike Hunger, who has spent nothing on his campaign. Incumbent Derwin Montgomery, who is an unopposed Democrat running for East Ward, has not filed his pre-election report.
Robert Clark, a Republican, is running unopposed for West Ward but had to overcome two opponents in the primary. His spending for the current period was about $4,600.
Rob Coffman, the director of elections in Forsyth County, said that candidates who do not submit spending reports are referred to the N.C. State Board of Elections. He said that state officials are usually lenient if the problem is a one-time thing.
“If it is a repeat offense, they are fined,” Coffman said.
According to the state elections website, local office campaigns may be fined $50 per day up to $500 if a fine is imposed.
By Wesley Young/Winston-Salem Journal