@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Candidates for lieutenant governor put big money into their own campaigns

Posted February 28, 2020 12:34 p.m. EST
Updated February 28, 2020 1:10 p.m. EST

Decision 2020 graphic

— Candidates for lieutenant governor loaned themselves a lot of money over the last year to win a stepping-stone job in a crowded field.

One keeps loaning his campaign money and paying it back, bracketing state filing deadlines with the transactions and inflating his fundraising totals at crucial moments.

Another lent his campaign half a million dollars. A third hasn't loaned his campaign any money, but his reports are so off kilter that he called the latest one "really messed up" on Friday and promised to fix it.

There are 15 candidates in Tuesday's primaries – nine Republicans and six Democrats. Several are current or former elected officials, including former Congresswoman Renee Ellmers and current state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson on the Republican side and state Rep. Yvonne Holley, D-Wake, and other lawmakers on the Democratic side.

Former Rep. Scott Stone, R-Mecklenburg, dropped his own money into his campaign twice last year just before state filing deadlines. Those filings require public release of fundraising totals that signal viability in modern politics, and it's not uncommon for candidates to plow their own money into a campaign right at a deadline.

But both times Scott's campaign paid him back within two weeks. He loaned his campaign $50,000 two days before the June 30 deadline and got it back July 12. He made a $100,000 loan Dec. 31 and got it back Jan. 6.

In early February, Stone sent out an email blast trumpeting a strong fundraising operation and "approximately $188,000 cash-on-hand as of December 31st."

Stone said this week that he wasn't trying to inflate his numbers, though he understands why it might seem that way. He called the loans a cash flow measure, a response to fundraising expenses that were expected, then delayed.

"It's just been a very unusual cycle with nine people in the race," he said.

Also in the Republican primary, first-time candidate Mark Robinson's grassroots fundraising has gone well. He raised $90,000 in the last six months of 2019, according to filed reports, and half of that came from contributions of $100 or less.

But the accounting has been off, at least on the expenses. He initially listed zero expenses for the second half of 2019 and had to file a new report showing more than $85,000. Even the new report has problems, Robinson acknowledged Friday.

A $2,400 expense listed only as a "cash withdrawal" was in fact a cashier's check Robinson used to reimburse a corporate donation that wasn't allowed, he said. Robinson said he's bringing in someone new to keep his campaign books and that the issues will be handled "quick, fast and in a hurry."

He's showing a negative cash-on-hand figure as of earlier this month, but without listing any debts owed.

In an interview, Robinson also addressed a $4,500 expense that raised eyebrows in the race, since it's listed as a reimbursement to his wife for "campaign apparel." These were campaign T-shirts she fronted the cost for early in the campaign, he said Friday.

State Sen. Andy Wells, R-Catawba, loaned his campaign $500,000 in January, spending the money that same day on cable and radio ads, according to his campaign filings.

Greg Gebhardt, a Republican political consultant and Iraq War veteran seeking his first elected office, has loaned his campaign $76,000. Johnson hasn't loaned his campaign money, but he benefited from being a current Council of State member, getting a $10,000 donation from a political committee organized solely to help Republicans in those offices.

Current Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who's running for governor, chairs that committee, which accepts unlimited donations.

In the Democratic primary, attorney Bill Toole loaned his campaign more than $280,000. State Sen. Terry Van Duyn, D-Buncombe, loaned her campaign $100,000, and state Rep. Chaz Beasley, D-Mecklenburg, loaned his campaign $70.000. Holley loaned her campaign $1,900.

These are the candidates in the lieutenant governor's race, by primary, as they appear on the ballot. Except where noted, the figure given is their cash on hand at the end of the latest filing deadline, which was Tuesday.

Democrats

  • Allen Thomas ($9,777)
  • Bill Toole ($16,231)
  • Terry Van Duyn ($90,014)
  • Chaz Beasley ($15,979)
  • Yvonne Lewis Holley ($33,742)**
  • Ron Newton ($446)

Republicans

  • John L. Ritter ($5,982)
  • Mark Robinson (-$7,349)
  • Scott Stone ($5,621)
  • Andy Wells ($74,987)
  • Buddy Bengel ($6,577)
  • Deborah Cochran ($183)
  • Renee Ellmers ($2,326)
  • Greg Gebhardt ($73,286)
  • Mark Johnson ($233,700)

** Figure as of Dec. 31, 2019. Later figure not yet available.

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