Friday, April 12, 2024

Campaign finances: School board candidate donates $1,500 in contributions to church

Top vote-getters raised highest numbers, some reports went unfiled

Republica Pat Bradford raised more than $30,000 ahead of the primary election. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — New Hanover County Board of Education candidate Pat Bradford surpassed her competition in campaign financing in the first quarter, so much so that she donated $1,500 of her proceeds to a church, according to filings.

The State Board of Elections requires candidates to disclose their contributions and expenditures. The deadline for the first quarter reports — Jan. 1 through Apr. 30 — was May 10. Two school board candidates, incumbent Republican Pete Wildeboer and Democrat Dorian Cromartie, did not file timely reports.

READ MORE: In tight NHCS race, 3 votes separate candidates in primaries

Global River Church, a Christian church on South College Road, was the $1,486 beneficiary of the committee “Pat Bradford for NHC Board of Education” during the first four months of 2022.

The Republican’s offering was just a drop of the $34,356 she raised — the most of all eight candidates running in the primaries who filed timely reports. So far, she’s spent the majority on campaign consulting, advertising and materials.

It’s not unusual for committees to donate to a 501(c)(3) with their fundraised cash, but typically these charitable donations come after an election has ended. Bradford has about six more months of campaigning until the November election.

“After campaigns are over, it’s very common for campaigns to do that,” Nadine Gibson, a political professor at UNCW said. “But, usually, a campaign would want to spend that money on their campaign.”

However, there are few restrictions on how committees can spend campaign contributions, Gibson explained. State law requires detailed disclosure of financials mainly to prevent quid pro quo relationships or fraudulent activity, such as a candidate spending campaign money on his or her lifestyle.

Bradford’s greatest donation was an in-kind contribution. Giorgios Bakatsias — a well-known Raleigh restaurateur who is opening Kipos in Lumina Station this summer — helped her throw a fundraiser worth $5,400. Her second biggest donation, $2,750, came from Tammy Black, a systems developer with Thermo Fisher Scientific, followed by Lara Logan with a $2,000 gift. Bradford also self-funded her campaign with around $6,500 in-kind contributions for print advertising, according to the report.

With her money, Bradford contributed $100 to Congressman David Rouzer’s campaign, $175 to the New Hanover County GOP, and $125 to the committee “Pat McCrory for US Senate.” McCrory lost the Republican bid as a runnerup to Ted Budd.

The money Bradford raised seemed to pay off as she came out on top in the Republican race — 11,659 votes and 22% of ballots cast in her favor — and will advance to the general election.

Democrat Veronica McLaurin-Brown raised the most among her party and subsequently earned the most votes in the primaries on her ticket. There were 11,852 voters supporting her at the polls, equating to 26% of ballots cast.

McLaurin-Brown’s filings show she collected $20,236 in the first quarter from individuals. She and her husband, Carl Brown, also loaned $3,500 to the committee.

Josie Barnhart, a Republican, reported raising the third-highest amount of money at $10,893 in the first quarter. Her top donor was Richard Wilkins with $1,500 in donations to date. Kim Rudder wrote ​​Barnhart’s campaign checks totaling $1,200 in February. Most of her money — more than $5,400 — has gone toward her politician consultants, and she’s also used hundreds to cover babysitters during her campaign.

Melissa Mason, who outperformed Barnhart in the primaries by about 1,000 votes, raised $4,420 in the first quarter, including a $1,000 loan from her husband. Her highest contribution was $700 from dermatologist Avery Bevin. With her money, she spent $500 on a campaign website and over $1,800 on yard signs.

Nelson Beaulieu, a sitting board member running for re-election, reported collecting just $465 in small increments from a dozen supporters. It was the lowest amount of funds raised of the eight timely reports. He is now facing a near-tie with Jennah Bosch for a spot on the November ballot, after just three votes separated the Democratic candidates in the unofficial primary results.

Besides Wildeboer and Cromartie, who did not file timely first-quarter reports, the rest of the candidates each reported collecting below $3,000. Bosch raised $2,495 in the first quarter, with a $600 in-kind contribution from the North Carolina Democratic Party. A few New Hanover County Schools employees chipped in: teacher Jennifer McCoskey gave $25, receptionist Sara Robin Toothman gave $25, teacher Alison Bellamy gave $25 and counselor Wendy Ivey gave $150.

New Hanover County Chair Julia Olson-Boseman, who was eliminated from the commissioners’ race, also gave $920 for signs and helped with Bosch’s filing fee.

Incumbent Judy Justice raised $2,922 in the first quarter, boosted by one $1,000 donation from UNCG professor Jennifer Mangrum. Her contributions included $400 worth of in-kind fundraiser entertainment from comedian Cliff Cash. Justice spent most of her contributions so far on campaign materials, her biggest expenses being $1,149 on palm card printing. She landed in third place in her Democratic nomination, just enough to secure her spot on the November ballot.

Chris Sutton was knocked out of the race after failing to collect enough Republican votes in the primaries. His fundraising totaled $2,306.

A previous version of this article stated McLaurin-Brown’s filings did not disclose the names of contributors or detailed expenditures. Those details are available through the NC State Board of Elections.

Reach journalist Alexandria Sands at or @alexsands_

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Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees. Reach her at or on Twitter @alexsands_

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