District 34 candidates vary widely in campaign spending

Campaign fundraising for the District 34 House of Representatives seat vacated by Elwyn Thomas on Aug. 31 varies widely among the six candidates running for the job, from a high of more than $20,000 to a low of $7,750. Two candidates have filed no campaign finance reports with the Alabama Secretary of State as of Tuesday morning, Oct. 16. Reports are not required until a candidate reaches a threshold of $5,000 in contributions or expenditures.

David Standridge has reported by far the highest total for both funds raised and for campaign expenditures to date at $22,300 in total contributions and $15,723 in total expenditures. His contributions break down as follows: $14,850 in political action committee (PAC) contributions; five contributions from individuals for a total of $2,700; four contributions from businesses totaling $2,200; and one contribution of $3,000 identified as “other.”

The PAC contributions come from a total of 17 different PACS, with all contributions in the $250 to $2,000 range. Most of the PACS describe their interests as lying in the “pro industry, pro-development, pro-business/ education” category. Other PAC donors represent Alabama Power employees, retirees, beef cattle growers, and automobile dealers.

“I really feel good about the election,” Standridge said. “Of course, like all special elections, it will depend a great deal on turnout – who does the best job in getting their voters out. So, we’re going to continue to work hard right up to the time of the election. We feel like we’ve got a lot of momentum, and we want to build on that.”

Jim Murphree has reported $13,190 in contributions to date with $8,662 reported in total expenditures. His contributions break down as follows: three contributions from PACs totaling $6,500, the largest being $5,000 from Alabama independent insurance agents; contributions from eight individuals totaling $2,900; two contributions from businesses for a total of $800, and one contribution of $2,990 identified as “other.”

Asked for comment on the state of his campaign, Murphree said, “I’m working hard, seeing a lot of people, and getting great response. I think there are still some undecideds out there, and I’m trying to see as many of them as I can, tell them about my ideas, and get theirs, and ask for their vote. I love campaigning, I love the people, and as I’ve told you before, I try to approach each person like I’ve got something to learn from them.”

Joe Hughes has reported $8,850 in total contributions and $5,515 in total expenses thus far. His contributions break down as follows: contributions from two PACs totaling $4,500, with $3,500 of that amount coming from Associated Builders and Contractors; ten contributions from individuals totalling $2,250; and five contributions totaling $2,100 from businesses.

When asked how he felt about the campaign so far, Hughes responded with a laugh and a sigh. “Tired,” he said. “I’ve been going non-stop, and when I do stop for a minute, I find myself worrying about where I’m supposed to be next and whether I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do. You know, I’ve talked to so many different people in so many different walks of life, and they’ve shared so many things with me that are not related to the campaign, that I’ve just had a number of ‘ah ha’ moments of reflection – you know where you think ‘ah ha, there’s must be a bigger reason for me hearing that.’”

Chris Latta has reported total campaign funds of $7,750, with, $3,400 of that coming from contributions and $4,150 from “other.” Expenses reported to date are $4,846. His contributions break down as follows: contributions from four individuals totaling $1,700; contributions from two business totaling $1,000; and $500 in “nonitemized” cash contributions. Latta reported no money received to date from political action committees.

“I’ve been really gratified by the local support,” Latta said. “I think it’s been a cordial campaign. We’ve all attended some of the same events and we respect each other, which is what you want in a local race. As for the election, I feel good about where I’ll stand next Tuesday. I’m sure everyone will be working hard to get their information out these last few days. It’s been a real learning experience.”

Candidates Bill Burns and Mark Butler both said they have not yet reached the $5,000 threshold requiring them to submit periodic reports to the Alabama Secretary of State. Though not sent yet to the state because he has not exceeded the reporting threshold, Burns provided figures he has kept so far on his campaign. He has raised $3,143 on 12 individual donations and has spent $3,080 to date.

“I’m very encouraged with the way the election is shaping up, and I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from around the county,” Burns said. “I’m definitely expecting to be one of the top two next week, so I expect to be in the runoff,” he said.

Butler said he may try to keep both his contributions and expenses for the campaign below $5,000 in order not to have to fill out the reporting forms required if that threshold is exceeded.

“I’m paying for this more or less out of my own pocket,” he said. “The benefit of that is that, if I’m elected, I can look everyone in the eye and know that I don’t owe them a thing,” he said.