Even as all eyes focus on the November election, the 2016 campaign season is quietly getting underway.
Republican Gov. Pat McCrory will face re-election in two years, and Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper is preparing to challenge him in what is shaping up to be a serious race.
One aspect to watch: the money chase. McCrory and Cooper started July 1 with essentially the same size bank account. McCrory reported $1.22 million in cash, and Cooper reported $1.25 million, according to state campaign finance filings.
It’s an impressive total for Cooper, who raised $380,000 from January through June, 10 times what McCrory posted.
The $37,000 McCrory raised in the same six months represents how his campaign operation has remained largely dormant since he took office.
McCrory’s campaign operation faded with the death of his consultant Jack Hawke in November and the loss of other key strategists. One constant is fundraiser Jonathan Brooks at Macon Consulting, but he’s busy raising money for Republican Thom Tillis and at least two political organizations in the U.S. Senate race this fall.
Only recently did McCrory’s re-election effort begin to take shape. Billy Constangy, an aide who helped McCrory’s 2012 bid and the son of a just-retired Mecklenburg County judge, left the administration to lead the campaign committee in July.
Constangy has a different take on McCrory’s fundraising efforts so far this year. “While the Attorney General has been out raising money since he was re-elected in 2012, Gov. McCrory has been focused on doing the job the voters elected him to do,” Constangy wrote in an email Tuesday.
McCrory’s campaign recently filed an amended campaign filing for the first six months of 2014 after The News & Observer raised questions about the report this summer.
The initial report listed travel expenses for Andy Lancaster and identified him as the marketing coordinator at the Shanahan Law Group, the firm run by Kieran Shanahan, McCrory’s former Department of Public Safety secretary. The final report from 2013 listed Lancaster’s employer as the same.
Lancaster, however, has been the governor’s director of intergovernmental affairs since January 2013, raising questions about whether he worked for two employers at the same time, an issue that drew scrutiny to Shanahan during his tenure in the administration.
Constangy said the campaign finance report was incorrect. The campaign filed a corrected disclosure Aug. 8 for the first six months of 2014 but not for the 2013 report.
McCrory also reimbursed the state just $147 for campaign travel expenses in the first six months of the year, despite a handful of political events and fundraisers. Constangy said that the amount covered travel from June 2013 to December 2013 and that the first six months of this year would be reimbursed on the next report.
In his final 2013 report, McCrory listed more than $3,000 in expenses in which he used state resources for campaign travel that he later reimbursed. Most of it went to the N.C. Department of Transportation, which manages the state’s plane and helicopter fleet.
On the other side, Cooper is spending far more than McCrory, with expenses totaling $119,000 for the first six months of the year. About $70,000 went to strategic and fundraising consultants, the reports show.
Morgan Jackson, whose firm Nexus Strategies directs Cooper’s campaign, said “early spending in campaigns is about building a solid foundation and infrastructure.”
The other Democratic candidate, Ken Spaulding of Durham, raised $12,000 in the first six months of the year and had $74,000 in the bank as of June 30.