Although longtime Oxford Mayor Leon Smith has more money available to him this election season than either of his opponents does, Cristy Humphries, one of those seeking his job, has so far outraised and outspent him.
That’s just one of the developments brought out in the campaign finance reports filed by local mayoral candidates last Friday in the Calhoun County Probate Judge’s office. Candidates in all the municipal races have about a month to raise and spend the money before the Aug. 28 elections.
In Anniston’s mayoral race, challenger Vaughn Stewart II leads a crowded pack in both getting and spending.
In Calhoun County’s smaller cities, candidates struggle to raise enough money that would require them to even file a finance report.
A keen competition for campaign dollars is shaping up in Oxford, where Humphries has to date raised $10,435 more in contributions than Smith. Smith has also spent $4,742 less than his opponent. Still Smith, who has been Oxford’s mayor since 1984, has far more money left to spend — more than $81,000 left over in savings from previous campaigns.
Russell Mullins, also a candidate for Oxford mayor, has filed what is known as a waiver of report because his contributions and expenses have not yet reached the minimum $1,000 threshold. Mullins, who owns Island Automotive in Oxford, said that while he has spent little money on his campaign so far, that would soon change.
“We are getting some signs up and we will have a commercial on TV,” Mullins said.
Mullins said he was not concerned that his opponents had so much more money to spend.
“A lot of the public already knows me through my business,” Mullins said. “I’m just working by myself — I’ve worked my whole life, that’s just the way it is.”
Attempts to reach Smith for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Humphries, currently executive director of the Oxford Education Foundation, which raises money for the city school system, has spent the majority of her funds on advertising. She said the spending is necessary because she is running against an established incumbent.
“I do think it is important … when you are running against someone who has been in office for 28 years … I think it’s important to have name recognition,” Humphries said.
So far, Humphries has received most of her contributions from area residents and a few businesses. She also received $500 from a Montgomery-based political action committee called the CDG PAC. According to the Alabama Secretary of State’s website, the CDG PAC says its purpose is to elect favorable business candidates and candidates who support the interests of the professional engineering community. The PAC’s finance reports show it has donated to several Alabama mayoral candidates this year. The reports also show most of the PAC’s contributions this year have come from local residents in the Andalusia, Attalla and Albertville areas.
“We have been very encouraged by the support we have been given financially,” Humphries said. “We’ve been going door-to-door, talking to citizens from Oxford and many have voiced the same message we are putting out — that it’s time for new leadership.”
Smith’s contributions have so far mainly come from businesses, including $500 from the Taylor Corporation of Oxford and $500 from Birmingham engineering firm Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood. Oxford has awarded various contracts to both companies over the years.
A crowded field
In Anniston, mayoral candidate Vaughn Stewart has outraised and outspent a crowded field of competitors.
Stewart took in more than $26,000 in contributions and has spent just more than $20,000, far more than any competitor in the 11-candidate race. Stewart’s biggest contributor was a business called Cardiology and Cardiovascular Surgery, which pitched in $5,000 during the period reported in the documents. Stewart had $1,900 in contributions from other businesses.
Incumbent Mayor Gene Robinson spent just over $7,400 in a largely self-funded campaign and had $48 left in his campaign when he filed his most recent report July 20.
Three other challengers to Robinson — Ann Welch, John Norton and Brant Locklier — also outspent the current mayor. All the challengers depended at least partially on self-funding.
William Stewart, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Alabama, said many municipal incumbents are being challenged in the state.
“People are dissatisfied in local government and taking that out on mayors and candidates,” Stewart said.
However, the opposition to municipal incumbents is not tied to the recent opposition to incumbents on the state and federal level, Stewart said.
“It’s not tied to that because municipal elections are non-partisan,” Stewart said. “People just don’t like wasted money and don’t like higher taxes and the local level is where people think they have the biggest say in changing things.”
Off the radar
In Calhoun County’s smaller cities, some mayoral candidates seemed to struggle to raise even the $1,000 required for reporting on campaign finance documents.
In Hobson City and Ohatchee, none of the candidates filed a finance report. Candidates who raise less than $1,000 have the option of filing a waiver, to make it clear they don’t have enough to report.
“I figured it was better to dot my i’s,” said Hobson City mayoral candidate Willie Elston. Elston said he’d raised about $300, and wasn’t sure anyone would pass the $1,000 mark in a town Hobson City’s size.
The Star’s attempts to reach current Hobson City Mayor Alberta McCrory and candidates Kathy Jackson were not immediately successful.
In Weaver, only mayoral candidate Philip Smith filed a report, stating he’s received $1,100 in contributions.
Weaver Mayor Garry Bearden did not file a report. The Star’s attempts to contact him were not successful. Challenger Wayne Willis filed documents stating that he had no contributions and no expenditures — though Willis told The Star in a Wednesday telephone interview that he had spent $400 of his own money on campaign signs and cards.
“I don’t take a penny from anyone. I finance it all on my own,” Willis said. Willis said state officials had told him he didn’t have to report that until it passed the $1,000 threshold.