Thursday, July 29th, 2010 at 8:08am

Hard to Buy Votes with No Money

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Many Candidate Self Loans Will Probably Be Lost

In the world of politics, candidates will frequently loan their campaigns money until donations can be secured; but, in the races for Lake County’s District #4 Commissioner and District #2 Commissioner, it appears most of these loans will become investments.  This economy is brutal for everyone, and very few people have money to toss at some candidate when rent, food, and gas are in question.  $70,600 is the total amount of outstanding candidate loans as of the second quarter report, and it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for candidates to cover these loans with donations so close to the election.

When Citizens for Better Government, L.L.C. reported the financial numbers for the first quarter, we contended, rightly so, that money raised is a huge indicator of political strength.  When someone strokes a check for a candidate, he or she is invested in that candidate’s success, and that normally translates into their votes and the votes of friends, co-workers, and family.  Here’s our analysis of the money races for Lake County’s District #4 Commissioner and District #2 Commissioner as of the second quarter:

District #4 Commissioner

Leslie Campione has raised nearly 70% more than all of the other candidates combined.  Campione’s experience in representing landowners on both sides of the issue, her years as city attorney for several local municipalities, and her connections to the medical industry have made her a favorite of all the candidates in both races.  Campione also has the largest campaign war chest for the stretch run with over $25,000, which will put immense pressure on her challengers.

Lloyd Atkins edges out political newcomer Paul Williams by less than $500 with a total of $11,525 in contributions.  Atkins continuously touts his 33 years of business experience in the Lake County market, but his fundraising total is barely ahead of a candidate, who is a newcomer to the area and politics.  Without a personal campaign loan of $25,000, Atkins would be $10,134 in debt.  He currently has $14,866 in his war chest to sprint to the finish line; but, unless he wins, it will be a $25,000 investment in signs.

Paul Williams, who is in third place, has raised more money than unpopular incumbent Linda Stewart; but, he’s spent almost every dime with a month of campaigning yet to go.  Williams has been “eating good in the neighborhood” as some observers have criticized his use of campaign funds to pay for personal meals.  His war chest could be best described as a change purse with a very dismal $338 left in it – he’s virtually out of money.  Unless a large benefactor wants to “swing for the fences” with Williams’ candidacy, it’s hard to imagine Williams having the resources to cross the finish line.  He will have to decide now, how much of his personal money he’s willing to put on the political roulette wheel.

Incumbent Linda Stewart has tapped members of the former Land Planning Agency and the environmental movement; however, times must be hard for these folks, or they realize Stewart’s chances are fairly bleak.  From information we’ve gathered, it appears Stewart’s negatives are extremely high in Lake County’s electorate.  To turn her image around in this bad economy, Stewart will probably have to invest $50,000-$100,000 in the final month of the campaign.  It is going to take a lot of money to turn her numbers in this anti-incumbent year.  In addition, if Stewart survives the Republican primary, she will face two candidates in the general election, E.K. (Egor) Emery and Wolfgang Halbig.  Stewart has to overcome serious money and political hurdles if she hopes to retain her seat.  It appears the mood is clear – anyone but Stewart.

Vance Jochim, The Fiscal Ranger, has decided to do the fiscally responsible thing and collect most of his $36,000 campaign loan back.  Jochim is still listed as a write-in candidate on the Republican ballot, but he’s basically ceased all expenditures in his campaign.  At the end of the day, Jochim may spend a few hundred bucks to lobby for a job as county watchdog.

E.K. (Egor) Emery the Democrat has raised $2,405 and loaned himself $500, but yet, Lauren Ritchie calls this bicycle mechanic a strong Democrat challenger.  By this time, a serious Democrat challenger for District #4 Commissioner should have banked over $50,000 for the general election.  Instead, Emery has been more focused on qualifying Republicans for their primary.  Whispers are he will pull out of the election if his friend Linda Stewart is the nominee – we will see.

Wolfgang Halbig is the wildcard this year because he is running as a NPA.  He has raised $211 and has loaned his campaign $5,000 with a current war chest of $1,692.  Money will flow to his campaign if Linda Stewart happens to survive the Republican primary.  There’s no doubt, Halbig is hoping for a Linda Stewart upset in the Republican primary.

District #2

Republican challenger Sean Parks has almost doubled his rivals’ campaign contributions through the second quarter, and unlike other major candidates he has not loaned his campaign a huge chunk of money.  Parks has a young family with three small children, and in this economy, the option for a candidate loan may not be viable for him.  Parks’ contributors appear to be many who supported incumbent Elaine Renick four years ago, and most of his donations are from a wide range of various groups.  Parks is a serious threat to take over the District #2 Commission Seat, and his background in environmental sciences will probably splinter disappointed Renick voters.

Late arriving into the race is incumbent Elaine Renick, who has raised $10,920 from various environmental activists, and who has personally loaned her campaign $10,000.  Because of her loan, Renick has a war chest of $15,400 left for the last month of the campaign, but like Linda Stewart, Renick’s negatives are extremely high in the county.  Her decision to include a South Lake Strategic Land Plan in the Comprehensive Plan, which took property rights from land owners in South Lake, has damaged her severely with former contributors, many of whom are actively working for her defeat.  Renick’s anti-growth/business rhetoric is considered over the top by many in business.  Renick will need a war chest 5-10 times more than her current total to overcome these political negatives, and it will be curious to see if one of Lake County’s wealthiest Commissioners is willing to put more chips on the table.  A recent appeal by her supporters to garner Democrat votes in a Republican primary demonstrates how vulnerable she may be.

Mark Saunders has been running for County Commissioner in Lake County longer than any person in either race, and he has only managed to raise $2,556.  After the first quarter analysis, Saunders was displeased with the report by Citizens for Better Government, L.L.C., and he suggested that his campaign was doing much better fundraising.  The numbers don’t support his notion.  In fact, without a candidate loan of $15,000, Saunders would be $7,058 in the negative.  In our view, Saunders stands the most risk of turning his loan into an investment, and he may soon have to decide whether he wants to invest another $10,000-$15,000 to remain competitive with Parks and Renick.  It’s show time for Mark Saunders.

David Yeager has raised a lowly $1,415, and he has spent $874, which leaves him a war chest of $541.  Of the actively running candidates, only Paul Williams is in worse shape.  It appears that Yeager’s inability to raise money is directly tied to his reputation of being unsuccessful in other campaigns.  Like Williams, it is hard for us to see Yeager remaining as a viable candidate.

It is less than a month from the Republican primary, and if you don’t have the money to compete now, then you as a campaign have serious problems.  The most money any candidate will spend is during the last two weeks, and it appears some of the candidates are simply out of money.  A candidate who has not been able to raise the bulk of their money should seek financial and political counseling before investing more money into what may be a failed campaign.  Egos in politics are bad things to have, and a candidate putting up the white flag is very hard to do, but burdening your family with financial losses in a failed campaign needs to be considered in this bad economy.  Each candidate must make up their own mind, but money is tight – you are on your own.

4 Responses to “Hard to Buy Votes with No Money”

  1. Name says:

    Hard to buy votes with no money? So you admit Leslie Campione and Sean Parks are buying votes with their developer financial contributions? Most people already knew that but it is a breath of fresh air to see this site admit it.

  2. Name says:

    One of Ms. Campione’s contributors was listed as “retired from citrus” and that’s interesting since he has built many houses in Lake County and is actively developing land right now.

    Another who is identified as an “investor” is in the development business too.

    And that was just a couple who I know personally. Hmm.

    Does truth really matter these days? I hope so.

  3. Money does say a lot, especially in these little ole county races. Whoever gets the most $$ wins…right? More like whoever gets the most people with the most money to support them wins. As I see it, most of us are in a recession now, so where is all Campione’s money comming from? Doesn’t sound like constituents to me…rather big time investors. Maybe Campione has a whole bunch of ole money horders on her side…where’d they get all that extra cash? Why do they want her in soooo bad? I smell trouble. Voters be warned…Catherine Hanson, the wealthy realtor who ushered our County into this housing mess had plenty of special interests funding her cause…which was to increase not only her pockets, but they pockets of most the people who support Admin. The underdogs are you and me folks, normal hard-working citizens who really don’t have the time to sit here and post these daily rants. Hrmmm…

  4. Name says:

    Lighten up on the Democrats. There`s just as many dumb @%#$ Republicans(probably more) as Democrats.

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