Sunday, November 27, 2022

The NC-7 Senate race is breaking campaign spending records with state party money

Michael Lee and Marcia Morgan are squaring off with record-breaking fundraising totals and less than a week to election day.

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Political party committees are dumping big money into the local race for a critical North Carolina Senate seat.

Incumbent Michael Lee (R-7) and Democratic challenger Marcia Morgan have both raked in more than $1.5 million in campaign contributions in an effort to come out on top in next week’s midterm election.

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The GOP is emphasizing Lee’s reelection as a key point in building a Republican supermajority in the Senate that would allow the party to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto power. The campaigns were neck-in-neck in totals raised as of Oct. 22 close of the third quarter, per finance reports released Tuesday.

To date, however, Morgan is slightly ahead, with $1,566,344.46 to Lee’s $1,522,352.55. By comparison, at the end of the third quarter in 2020, when Lee was facing off against incumbent Harper Peterson, he had raised $923,478.69 to eke out a single-point win. Lee reclaimed the seat he lost to Peterson by less than 0.25% in 2018.

Both Morgan and Lee’s biggest contributors, by far, are political party committees. Lee has taken in $1 million from the Republican Party. He has garnered $107,822 from a combination from political action committees, including industries involving pork, merchants, medicine, health care facilities, dental, accounting, bars, banking and automotive.

Morgan has picked up $1.3 million from her party and $48,674 from PACs or other campaigns.

Lee has received more than 20 contributions from the North Carolina Senate Majority Fund totaling almost all of that $1 million. The party committee has been sending regular installments of a little more than $15,0000 to Lee’s campaign since July, with several larger chunks of funding along the way.

On Aug. 26 the fund gave Lee’s campaign $195,000. It sent $200,000 on Sept. 29 and $275,000 on Oct. 20.

On the individual side, Lee has maximum contributions of $5,600 each from Landon Zimmer, in-house counsel at Zimmer Development, and real estate developer Barron Thomas Young.

Several local politicians and offices have their names in Lee’s report. New Hanover County Commissioner Charlie Rivenbark contributed $200 to the campaign, Pender County Commissioner Jimmy Tate donated $1,000 and New Hanover Board of Elections member Russ Bryan gave $500.

Morgan accumulated more money from her party, but also vastly outpaced Lee in small contributions, recording more than 1,200 small donations ranging from $1 to $100. Lee totaled 259 contributions from all sources.

The North Carolina Democratic Party was Morgan’s largest contributor, sending checks since early September. The biggest contributions were $170,000 paid Oct. 13 and $230,000 on Oct 20.

Morgan accepted money from Lillian’s List, the N.C. OBGYN PAC, the N.C. Sierra Club PAC and the Planned Parenthood Votes N.C. PAC.

Her campaign also accepted $2,900 from Jason Minnicozzi’s former campaign committee. Minnicozzi bowed out as a candidate in June claiming financial issues, though he had been accused of predatory behavior.

At the end of the reporting period, Morgan had $17,411.64 left in cash on hand compared to Lee’s $79,201.68, but money has continued to roll in for both. Candidates have to file notices of contributions greater than $1,000 in the time between quarterly reports and Election Day.

On Sept. 29 Morgan recorded another $272,000 from the state party and $2,000 from individuals. On Nov. 1 her campaign received $15,200 in smaller contributions.

Lee has taken in $50,200 in smaller contributions since the third quarter ended.

Other races on the books

The other state-level New Hanover races are raising and spending at a fraction of the Senate race total, but there is a greater disparity between the candidates.

Incumbent Rep. Deb Butler (D-18) has raised $268,068 this year against Republican challenger John Hinnant’s $152,000. Butler also spent more than twice as much, $168,000, to Hinnant’s $80,000, by the end of the third quarter.

Butler received $1,800 from Coastal Horizons CEO Margaret Weller-Stargell. A large part of Hinnant’s 115 total contributions were from people who work in real estate. Notably, Barron Thomas Young donated $100, Steve Anderson of Steve Anderson properties donated $250, Steve Carlson of Carlson Family LLC donated $150, Daniel Smith of SHP Acquisitions donated $1,000 and Nathan Sanders president of Sanco Homes, donated $500.

Meanwhile, Ted Davis (R-20), is outpacing Democratic opponent Amy Block DeLoach. Davis has raised $373,000 to DeLoach’s $295,400, though DeLoach was spending at a much faster pace, with $56,500 total cash on hand by Oct. 22. ; during the same time, Davis still had $148,800 in the bank.

Less money is flying across the river in Brunswick County for the NC-17 House Seat. Republican Incumbent Frank Iler is out-fundraising Democratic nominee Eric Terashima, with $64,500 and $46,350 raised, respectively. Terashima had $2,915 on hand at the end of the third quarter to Iler’s $21,735.

What distinguishes the Brunswick race from those in New Hanover is the lack of money from political parties. For this entire election cycle, Terashima has taken $750 from the Democrats and Iler has received a grand total of $100 from the GOP.

Iler has comfortably held onto his seat for six terms in the more Republican-leaning Brunswick County.


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