October 31, 2017

House Candidate Houston Gaines Raises $200,000

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I'm rich!

Republican Houston Gaines had raised nearly $200,000 as of last week for his Athens-area House District 117 race, outpacing Democratic opponent Deborah Gonzalez nearly four-to-one.

In documents filed Monday with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, Gaines reported raising $196, 251 and had $140,436 on hand as of Oct. 23, 15 days before Election Day, Nov. 7.

It's a common strategy for candidates with such overwhelming fundraising advantages to keep some of their powder dry to ward off future challengers.

Gaines' list of contributors is a Who's Who of powerful, connected Republican politicians and business interests in Athens and Atlanta.

Some of his prominent donors included House Speaker David Ralston ($2,500), Majority Leader Jon Burns ($2,500), Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England ($2,500), Athens state Sen. Frank Ginn ($500), Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer ($250), former Athens Reps. Regina Quick ($1,000) and Doug McKillip ($500), state Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens ($500), several other Republican state lawmakers, Barrow County Commission Chairwoman Pat Graham ($500), former Athens and Georgia Republican Party Chairman John Padgett ($250), retired University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby ($250), former Regent former Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Kathy Hoard ($250), current commissioners Mike Hamby, Diane Bell and Jerry NeSmith ($250), high-powered law firm Troutman Sanders ($500), commercial real estate broker and Georgia Department of Transportation Chairman Jamie Boswell ($200) and retired Athens-Clarke County Manager Alan Reddish ($500).

Others include the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Coca-Cola, developers, several CEOs of local businesses and a number of health care political action committees and PACs representing other industries, such as liquor distributors and Realtors.

Gonzalez—who reported raising just $7,451 as of June 30—has raised $48,469 since then, for a total of $55,921, and had $36,265 on hand.

Commissioners Allison Wright, Kelly Girtz ($150) and Melissa Link ($117) former congressman John Barrow ($250) school board members Ovita Thornton and Greg Davis ($117), former state Rep. Jane Kidd ($517), the Athens-Clarke County Democratic Committee ($1,000), the PAC Latino Victory Fund ($2,600) and Georgia WIN List ($2,000), an organization that supports female candidates, contributed to her campaign. NeSmith gave $250, matching what he had given Gaines earlier.

$2,600 is the maximum political donation allowed under Georgia law.

In House District 119, Democrat Jonathan Wallace reported raising $39,448 and had $24,788 on hand to spend as of a week ago.

His donors included House Minority Leader Bob Trammell ($1,000), Athens state Rep. Spencer Frye ($1,000), Davis ($200) and various Democratic activists.

Interestingly, there is some overlap between Gaines' supporters and Wallaces's—Herod, NeSmith and Piedmont Athens Regional vice president Robert Finch donated to both campaigns.

Republican support seems to be coalescing around funeral-home owner Tom Lord, who reported raising $57,479, and homebuilder Marcus Wiedower.

Lord's supporters include Boswell ($250) and a number of builders and construction firms, in spite of Wiedower's occupation. He also loaned his campaign $20,000.

Wiedower reported raising $37,220, including a $4,000 loan. He has support from several developers as well, and Watkinsville City Councilman Brian Brodrick ($250) and former Clarke County GOP chairman John Elliott ($120).

Republican Steven Strickland reported raising $910 and loaned his campaign $9,000 of his own money.

Lee Becker posted his own breakdown of the candidates' fundraising at Oconee County Observations.