Democratic candidates for Wake County school board have major fundraising leads over their Republican opponents in a campaign that has seen far fewer dollars raised than in recent years.
Campaign finance reports due last week show that the three Democratic candidates all have at least double the amounts of their opponents. In the race with no Democrats, both candidates have gotten bipartisan support but GOP board member Bill Fletcher has the fundraising lead over fellow Republican Nancy Caggia.
Overall, the $110,218 raised by the eight school board candidates through Sept. 23 is far less than the $318,105 raised at this point in the election cycle in 2011. By the end of the 2011 campaign, the candidates and third-party groups had spent more than $600,000 in an election that helped Democratic-backed candidates retake the school board majority.
“There isn’t a hot-button issue like student assignment to motivate people,” said David McLennan, a political science professor at William Peace University.
On Tuesday, four of the nine school board seats and an $810 million school construction bond issue will be on the ballot. Even if all four candidates backed by the Wake County Republican Party win, the school board would remain under the control of Democratic-backed members.
This fall’s officially nonpartisan contests are for three-year terms under election boundaries adopted by the school board in 2011. But, under a law passed in June by the General Assembly, new maps favoring Republican candidates would be used beginning in 2016.
Several supporters of the Democratic board majority have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the new lines.
Ann Campbell, a former pharmaceutical executive, is the largest individual donor this campaign cycle, giving $9,000 to the Democratic candidates and $1,000 to Fletcher. Campbell gave $22,000 to the Democratic candidates in 2011 and is a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit.
There’s less outside involvement reported so far this campaign than in 2011.
For instance, the state Republican Party sent multiple campaign mailers two years ago. This year, the party has only reported spending $12,014 on a voters guide for 12 candidates in Wake County, including two running for school board.
There’s also been less outside spending from Democratic-leaning groups than in 2011.
The biggest group is the Wake Citizens For Good Government, which has given $10,000 to the Democratic candidates and $6,000 to the Wake County Democratic Party. The biggest donors for the political action committee – at $4,000 apiece – are Democratic pollster Dean Debnam and John Wilson, former executive director of the National Education Association.
“The Democrats got organized in 2011 and continued that,” McLennan said. “The Republicans seem to be focused on different elections in 2014.”