Calhoun County’s incumbent lawmakers at the end of February had a strong fundraising lead over their midterm election rivals, the latest campaign finance reports show.
State Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, had $387,708 on hand at month’s end, according to reports filed last month — about 100 times as much as both of his opponents combined. Rep. Randy Wood, R-Saks, had $110,791 left to spend, while his opponent had less than $100 on hand.
Political science professors say the incumbents’ piggy-bank edge is no surprise, nor is it as big an advantage as it may seem.
“The main value of incumbent money is to scare off potential opponents,” said Stephen Borrelli, who teaches political science at the University of Alabama.
An anti-incumbent mood seemed to be in the air last year, in the wake of an alleged affair and campaign finance scandal that ended the political career of Gov. Robert Bentley. Democrats drew more candidates than in recent election cycles and many candidates pushed a change-in-Montgomery theme.
The state’s biggest political donors, however, seem to prefer people already in office. The Alabama Education Association’s political action committee, historically aligned mostly with Democrats, was the biggest single donor this year to Rep. Barbara Boyd of Anniston, the only Calhoun County incumbent Democrat seeking re-election. Top donors from past election cycles — Great Southern Wood Preserving, Protective Life Insurance Company and the Drummond coal company — funded PACs that gave to incumbents on both sides of the aisle. Non-incumbents in both parties, at least in Calhoun County at the end of February, were still largely running on donations from the candidates’ friends and family or loans from candidate to campaign.
“If you’re a potential donor, you’re going to want to give to someone who already has influence,” said David Hughes, a political science professor at Auburn University at Montgomery.
The smallest fundraising gap was in House District 39, where Republicans T.J. Maloney and Ginny Shaver face each other in a race with no incumbent. Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, isn’t seeking re-election.
Maloney had $31,101 to Shaver’s $16,259 at the end of February. Both candidates said their totals were signs of a strong campaign.
“Almost all of the money I raised was from friends, neighbors and family,” Maloney said. The biggest transaction in his finance records is an in-kind contribution from Heflin filmmaker Will Payne, valued at $8,500. Maloney said Payne made a campaign ad for him for free.
Shaver cited out-of-state contributions to Maloney and said her fundraising numbers show stronger local support.
“It may be $50 and $100 here and there, but my money is from people who can vote for me,” she said.
Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford, had about $13,000 in campaign funds at the end of February. He’s running unopposed.