Under the Dome

NC attorney general primary heats up with six-figure fundraising

Jim O’Neill
Jim O’Neill

Two Republicans seeking their party’s nomination for state attorney general are evenly matched in campaign funding, finance reports released Monday show.

With the current attorney general, Roy Cooper, running for governor, Republicans hope to take over the office for the first time in decades. State Sen. Buck Newton of Wilson and Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill are both running in the March 15 GOP primary. The winner is expected to take on state Sen. Josh Stein, a Raleigh Democrat.

Both Newton and O’Neill ended 2015 with more than $150,000 in the bank. Newton raised $153,000 during the second half of the year, while O’Neill’s campaign brought in $187,000.

O’Neill had $230,000 on hand to start 2016; Newton had $167,000.

“What doesn’t show up in the campaign report are the several sets of tires that (Newton) has worn out traveling,” said Doug Raymond, who’s managing Newton’s campaign. “We feel real good, but we’re running like we’re 20 points behind.”

O’Neill’s campaign could not be reached for comment Monday.

Both candidates have high-profile Republicans on their donor lists. Newton received contributions from Secretary of Administration Bill Daughtridge and fellow legislators like Sens. Kathy Harrington, Brent Jackson and Louis Pate. O’Neill got contributions from former Sen. Pete Brunstetter and former UNC Board of Governors chairman John Fennebresque.

Newton and O’Neill raised less money than Stein over the reporting period. Stein received $503,000 during the second half of 2015 and had $1.49 million on hand to start the year.

In other campaign finance reports released Monday:

More on McCrory’s millions: Gov. Pat McCrory’s report appeared online Monday, and the bottom-line numbers were as his campaign had announced last week: He has $4.1 million on hand compared to Attorney General Roy Cooper’s $4.9 million.

McCrory received $2.3 million of the total $2.6 million he raised in the past six months of the year from individual donors, and $230,000 from political committees. Cooper received $2.7 million of his total $3 million from individuals, and $38,000 from committees.

McCrory spent his money faster than Cooper did in the first half of 2015, but Cooper stepped up the pace and both candidates are spending at about the same rate.

Meeker leads Berry: Former Raleigh mayor Charles Meeker, a Democrat who’s challenging incumbent labor commissioner Cherie Berry, reported raising $108,000 in the second half of 2015 and started the year with $69,000.

Berry, a Republican, raised $27,000 during the same period and had $44,000 on hand.

Coleman lags Jones: Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Linda Coleman reports receiving $107,000 and spending $76,500 in the second half of last year. However, there are discrepancies in her report, so it isn’t clear how much money her campaign had on hand at the end of the year.

Coleman’s main primary opponent, Buncombe County Commissioner Holly Jones, last week reported receiving $191,000 and spending $81,847 of it, leaving her with $114,000 cash on hand.

Stein Senate seat: The Democratic primary for Josh Stein’s Wake County Senate seat is shaping up as one of the most expensive legislative primary contests.

Jay Chaudhuri had a narrow fundraising lead to begin the year, with $133,000 raised in the reporting period and $240,000 on hand. Ellis Hankins raised $105,000 and had $123,000 on hand.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter