Big spreads in General Assembly races
Incumbents Chuck Hufstetler and Katie Dempsey have huge financial advantages over challengers Evan Ross and John Burnette.
The so-called incumbent’s advantage is apparent in the latest campaign finance reports, where challengers to local Georgia General Assembly representatives are lagging far behind in fundraising.
The election is set for Nov. 6, with early voting starting next week.
Democrat Evan Ross is trying to unseat Republican Chuck Hufstetler in the state Senate district that covers all of Floyd and parts of Chattooga, Gordon and Bartow counties.
Ross is a logistics manager for two local organic farms running as an anti-politician to represent working class people. Hufstetler, seeking his fourth two-year term, is an anesthetist at a local hospital and a former county commissioner.
Hufstetler reported $174,882 in his campaign chest, with more than $43,000 coming in between July 1 and Sept. 30 — the period covered by the latest reports filed with the State Ethics Commission.
In contrast, Ross had $4,357 left after taking in about $6,000 this period. So far, he’s reported just over $30,000 in donations, cash and in-kind, since his campaign started.
Among the major donors to Ross in the last three months were Summerville attorney Bobby Lee Cook, $1,000, and Sylvia Hoyt of Savannah, $2,600. His campaign is fueled mainly by out-of-state friends and family and by small donors of less than $100, who pumped in $3,167 since the end of June.
Hufstetler, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, listed more than 100 contributions of $150 or more. The largest amounts came from Republican political campaign accounts and private political action committees, such as Georgia Banks Association, Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, Georgia Emergency Medicine PAC, AT&T,
Georgia Branch of Associated Contractors, The CocaCola Co. and Delta-PAC.
Still, many of Hufstetler’s contributors are local voters, including at least 30 connected with Harbin Clinic as physicians or in other capacities. He also listed just over $1,300 in small donations under $100 this period.
Hufstetler also has spent little on campaign materials to get his name into the public sphere. The $12,663 spent this period mostly went to other Republican candidates’ campaigns, as has been the case for much of the year. About $3,600 went to advertising expenses.
Ross, a political new- comer, reported spending nearly $11,500 this period. Just $200 went to another campaign, Democrat John Barrow’s run for secretary of state. The rest went to consultants, office equipment, signs, T-shirts, magnets and other publicity-related expenses.
Ross spent close to $850 on gun locks he’s raffling off to drum up support as a responsible gun owner. He also paid $800 to sponsor a bucking shoot pen at a rodeo put on by Southern Rodeo Co. in Rockmart and $150 for child care. He and his wife have two young children, one with epilepsy.
Two of Floyd County’s three state House representatives are unopposed on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Democrat John Burnette II, owner of a Farmers Insurance agency, is challenging incumbent Republican Katie Dempsey for the District 13 seat, which covers the city of Rome and much of central Floyd County.
Burnette reported $151 in his campaign account on Sept. 30 compared to Dempsey’s $54,557.
Dempsey’s nearly $41,000 in big contributions this period also came primarily from other political campaigns and private company PACs, but Rome residents also are on the list.
Among the local donors: Floyd Medical Center CEO Kurt Stuenkel, $1,000; Dr. Dan Hanks, Evans Construction CEO Kevin Evans and Henderson & Sons Funeral Home, $500 each; County Commissioner Larry Maxey, a builder, $300; and Bonnie Moore, president of NAMI Rome, $200.
Burnette took in $1,291, with about half in donations of $100 or less. Major donors were Rome City Commissioner Wendy Davis, a political consultant, $300; Kyle Doegg of Birmingham, Alabama, $300; and $50 from himself.
Burnette’s expenses — $1,687 in the past three months — went to door hangers, a campaign manager, a voter list and $150 to the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia as the entry fee for its celebrity dance contest fundraiser.
Dempsey reported spending about $17,600 over the same period, including $2,100 a month for the Atlanta apartment she uses for legislative duties. Her biggest expense was $6,600 to Republican Brian Kemp’s gubernatorial campaign. Signs, campaign materials and donations to several local nonprofits were also on the list.