Fundraising low in Cary Town Council races

aspecht@newsobserver.comOctober 5, 2013 

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— Incumbent candidates on the Cary Town Council have raised more money than their challengers leading up to Tuesday’s election, but the four contested candidates together have raised a total of less than $10,000.

By the end of September, Jennifer Robinson had raised about $5,900 in her effort to keep her District A council seat to represent western Cary. Her opponent, Karl Thor, had raised about $1,505, but entered October with $6,900 after making a personal donation to his campaign.

Thor said Robinson’s fundraising lead is to be expected because he doesn’t actively raise money and the incumbent has built up “a good foundation” of donors over the years. He said he donated $10,000 to his own campaign because he thought Robinson’s incumbency gave her a head start in publicity.

“I don’t like asking people for money,” Thor said. “Anybody who donated did so without my asking them.”

Meanwhile, incumbent Jack Smith and challenger Deborah Pugh haven’t raised enough money to pay for a yearlong golf membership at Prestonwood Country Club.

Smith raised just over $2,000 by Oct. 1 in his bid to keep his District C seat to represent southeastern Cary.

Pugh wasn’t required to submit a campaign finance report because she hadn’t raised at least $1,000, said Jennifer Montgomery, an elections specialist with the Wake County Board of Elections.

Pugh said she doesn’t accept donations to her campaign. Politicians who accept money might give donors the impression that they can have special influence over a candidate, she said.

“I am truly disgusted with the way money impacts what people do,” Pugh said.

Smith had a different take on why fundraising numbers are low for this year’s challengers.

“I truly believe that the arguments of my opponent and (Robinson’s) opponent don’t resonate with the rank-and-file Cary voter,” he said. “There’s no solutions or recommendations of what to do differently.”

Smith’s campaign coffer is significantly smaller than it was in 2009, when he raised more than $15,000 and spent at least $6,400 of his own money to fend off a challenge from Catherine Evangelista.

Smith said he didn’t have to raise as much money this year because he didn’t need to spend as much on advertising.

“It’s been a quiet election year,” he said. “Last time, we were both seeking a lot more publicity.”

In District A, Robinson hopes her 12 years on Town Council will help her.

Robinson has raised about the same amount of money as she did in her 2009 re-election campaign. But that year, a runoff forced her to raise more than $20,000 and spend $9,400 of her personal money to beat challenger Lori Bush, who now holds an at-large seat on the council.

Robinson said she is confident that she’ll win this time without a runoff – so long as her supporters show up to vote.

After the 2009 runoff was announced, Robinson said, she “had 60 or 70 people” tell her they didn’t get around to voting because they thought she’d win.

“People have said the same thing (about winning) this time, and that confidence scares me because I don’t want it to translate into complacency,” Robinson said. “If my supporters go to the polls, I will win overwhelmingly.”

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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