Against public financing, he'll use it anyway

September 5, 2009 

Chapel Hill mayoral candidate Kevin Wolff has consistently spoken against the town's public campaign financing, but last week he became one of only three candidates announcing he planned to use it. Eleven others declined.

"In one sense, I guess it's an attempt to keep the playing field level," Wolff said. "It's my tax dollars that are going to be used, and I think I'm entitled to it as much as anybody else. It doesn't change my position that I oppose the current language of the voter-owned election, which I call public financing."

Wolff doesn't like the rule requiring mayoral candidates to raise $1,500 from 150 different citizens to qualify for public financing. The registered Republican thinks there should be another way to qualify -- like the 30 percent of votes he got as a challenger to Mayor Kevin Foy in 2007.

"I'm sure there are a few people up on this council who are not people persons," he said. "Why do you then force them to go out and interface with people to qualify?

"Why should we limit the council to people who are personable enough?" he said. "It's hard enough for that person to go out and campaign, but it doesn't mean that they're not valuable on our council."

Wolff said this argument doesn't apply to him.

"I'm a people person," he said. "I don't have any trouble talking with anybody."

A leader in scalability

Political junkies examining Raleigh City Council candidate Lee Sartain's campaign finance reports likely have been startled by the money the political novice invested in his Web site: $30,000.

But Sartain, 28, a candidate for one of the council's two at-large seats, didn't spend $30,000 of his own money to build a turbo-charged campaign site. As he explained to Triangle Politics, the $30,000 is the amount he would have paid a design firm if he hadn't built the site himself.

"It actually could have been higher," Sartain said. "That was a low-ball estimate."

Sartain said by the time the race is over he expects to have spent only about $1,000 on computer hardware and Web hosting.

As for why he spent so much time and energy on his Web site, Sartain sounded like a man hoping to build an army of followers.

"I wanted to make sure that we had a good online presence that was scalable," Sartain said. "After the election, once I'm in office, I plan to use the site to communicate with folks effectively. The site won't go away after Oct. 6."

Of course, Sartain's three competitors -- incumbents Russ Stephenson, Mary-Ann Baldwin and Champ Claris -- would certainly disagree with his prediction. And all three had more money on hand as of Sept 1. Stephenson had $15,852, while Baldwin had $5,808 and Claris had $1,494. Sartain's war chest totaled $460.

Endorsements

Veteran Durham City Council member Howard Clement made a sweep of the city's three major political groups this week, adding Friday's endorsement by the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People to those of the right-leaning Friends of Durham and the left-inclined Durham People's Alliance he received earlier in the week.

Clement faces four challengers Oct. 6 in the municipal primary for the Ward 2 seat he has held since 1983. The Committee, unlike the other two groups, favored political newcomer Donald A. Hughes for the council's Ward 1 seat. The Friends and Alliance went for incumbent Cora Cole-McFadden. Newcomer John Tarantino also is running in Ward 1.

The People's Alliance also endorsed incumbent Mayor Bill Bell and City Council member Mike Woodard, who have one opponent each and won't be on the ballot until the general election Nov. 3. The Durham Committee and Friends of Durham have not made endorsements yet in those contests.

No endorsements

Durham City Council candidate Darius M. Little has missed out on endorsements so far, but he had something to say about the Durham Committee's choice: It doesn't mean what it used to.

Little, in a prepared statement Friday, said the committee decision was made by 11 members and does not represent the opinion of the city's 63,000 black voters.

Little, whose record includes two felony convictions and a 10-month prison term, is running for the Ward 2 seat against Clement. In e-mail to Clement last month, he asked the 26-year council veteran to drop out in view of his age and physical infirmities. Clement has not publicly responded.

Political Trail

Northern Orange Republican Women will meet from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Board of Elections building, 110 E. King St., Hillsborough. More information: www .northernorangerepublicanwomen .com.

The Northern Wake Republican Club will meet Thursday at Events at Newton Square, 230 Newton Road, Raleigh. Dinner is from 6 to 7 p.m. Program begins at 6:30 and ends at 8:30. Dinner is $13; cost for those attending but not eating is $4. Public is invited. Guest speaker is WPTF radio personality Bill LuMaye. LuMaye also will serve as auctioneer in a benefit for the club in its various activities.

The Triangle Republican Women will meet at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 14 at Pomodoro's Italian Kitchen, 1811 Hillandale Road, Durham. Dinner is at 6:30 p.m.; meeting begins at 7. Guest speaker is Stephanie TerMaath, who will talk about the USO Club at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Also, Marilyn Flanary will report on the National Federation of Republican Women's convention. The public is invited.

Politically speaking

"Urban sprawl, like a cancerous growth, is always life-threatening."

Amanda Ashley, candidate for Carrboro mayor, who is basing her entire campaign on keeping Carrboro a small town

Compiled by staffwriters JesseJamesDeConto, DavidBracken andJimWise.

Triangle Politics is a weekly look atthe local political scene. Got a tip, item or coming event? Fax Triangle Politics at 829-4529, or send e-mail to metroeds@newsobserver.com. Please send items by noon Thursday.

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