Cary News

Cary Council runoff campaign generates big spending

With three council seats and the mayor up for election in Cary this fall, a runoff for one of the council seats proved to be the most expensive race for candidates, according to campaign finance reports.

A look at campaign spending shows that the candidates who spent the most won their seats.

Cary resident Ken George was elected to the District D seat during the Nov. 3 runoff election after outspending challenger Maria Cervania by about $10,000, according to the candidates. George estimated spending about $27,000 during the course of the entire election, and Cervania estimated spending about $17,500.

The campaign reports are preliminary. The deadline for candidates to submit final 2015 campaign reports with the Wake County Board of Elections is Jan. 29.

But candidates provided The Cary News with updated data to reflect their spending.

The District B race also generated a fair amount of spending as incumbent Don Frantz faced challenges from Gabe Talton and Frank Lazzaro. Frantz defeated both to win a third term.

Meanwhile, Mayor Harold Weinbrecht and at-large council member Lori Bush ran unopposed and were not active in fundraising or campaign spending. Weinbrecht reported spending $10. Bush reported spending $34.

District D

Most of the money spent by George and Cervania came after the Oct. 6 election, when they first faced off against two other candidates, Nancy Caggia and Gray Rinehart. George was the top vote-getter then, but didn’t have a majority of the vote, which allowed Cervania, the second vote-getter, to call for a runoff.

In November, George won with 1,704 votes, or 60 percent, according to official results. Cervania had 1,134 votes, or 40 percent of the vote.

As of Oct. 19, George’s campaign collected $13,786 and spent $11,588, according to pre-runoff reports filed Oct. 26. Cervania’s campaign collected $15,772 and spent $12,278 in the same time period.

Most of the two candidates’ estimated $44,500 in spending was disbursed after Sept. 21.

“I wouldn’t do anything differently when it comes to spending money,” Cervania said. “At the end of the day, it’s about connecting with people and working hard. I think it was a reflection on how I would be as an elected (official). You can have an effective campaign without having to get big numbers and expenditures.”

George lists 26 donors to his campaign. Ten who live outside Cary, including family members, contributed about $6,017 as of Oct. 19.

His biggest Cary contributors included several members of the developer community, such as Ed Woolner, a real-estate developer with Regency Park Corporation, with $500 and developer George Jordan with $200. Jordan is involved in the development of Midtown Square, a new office building in downtown, and the redevelopment of Midtown Shopping Center, which will house a brewery.

George, a longtime resident of Cary, said even though some contributions came from developers, they contributed as longtime friends or clients.

“These are relationships that have nothing to do with them being a developer,” he said. “This is them wanting to support Ken George, because they knew me.”

Cervania listed 42 donors with two donors living outside of Cary. They include state Rep. Duane Hall, who gave her $100.

Cervania’s biggest contributors included Bush with $250 and state Rep. Gale Adcock with $250. The District D seat became vacant last year when Adcock was elected to the state House.

“It was immeasurable, her support,” Cervania said.

George and Cervania said mailers were the most expensive part of the campaign, particularly before the runoff. Cervania said she saved money because she designed and printed the mailers at home.

Prior to Sept. 21, George reported spending $3,736, while Cervania reported spending $2,192. Caggia, who had the third most votes in the Oct. 6 election, listed 16 donors and expenditures of $3,741.

Rinehart did not receive or spend more than the $1,000 threshold.

District B

Frantz received the most in contributions of his two rivals, a race that had negative mailers sent by Talton, his opponent, in the days leading up to the October election.

Frantz said he spent $17,000 while Talton estimates he spent a total of $10,000. Talton said he spent $4,000 on the mailers, which criticized Frantz and some of the council’s decisions to invest in downtown.

But the mailers didn’t convince voters to unseat Frantz, who earned 60 percent of the vote. Talton came in second place with 35 percent, while Lazzaro had 4 percent.

Frantz reported receiving $16,167 in contributions from 64 donors between July 1 and Sept. 21. About half the amount came from 21 donors in the real estate industry, including contractors and developers. Real estate agents such as David Martin, president of Martin Properties, and developer Roy Mashburn, contributed $1,000 apiece.

Frantz said he believed that his accessibility and willingness to work with developers and similar parties is why they contributed.

“I do meet with applicants and developers a lot to hear their side of the story,” he said. “I try to include them in the process and work really hard to try to bring both sides together.”

He received support from current and former Cary council members with $2,100 coming from Weinbrecht and council members Bush, Jennifer Robinson, Ed Yerha and Jack Smith. Adcock gave him $250.

“I think that speaks volumes about my effectiveness on the council and how well we work together as a team,” he said.

Talton reported receiving $6,469 in contributions from 12 donors as of Sept. 21. Eight donors living outside of Cary, including family members, contributed $4,550, to Talton’s campaign.

“I really tried to keep my expenses low,” he said.

His biggest Cary contributors included Eric Sanchez, chief operating officer at the Law Office of James Scott Farrin, with $250, and Shawn Whisant, owner of Woody’s Sports Tavern and Grill, with $500.

Lazzaro did not spend or receive more than the $1,000 threshold.

Kathryn Trogdon; 919-460-2608; @KTrogdon