With more than $57,500 spent by five candidates in the race for Bulloch County probate judge, mainly by the two who are in Tuesday’s runoff, the contest ranks well behind those for sheriff and Superior Court judge in campaign spending.
By the latest required campaign finance disclosure date, June 30, candidate Charles P. “Charlie” Aaron, an attorney with Edenfield, Cox, Bruce and Classens, had received and spent twice as much as his runoff opponent, Lorna G. DeLoach, a paralegal and the office manager at Stafford Law Group.
Aaron reported receiving $33,904 in contributions so far and spending $31,914, before the final three weeks leading to the July 26 runoff.
“I knew that campaigns were expensive, but it has been more expensive than I thought it would be, but this is my first time running for political office,” he said in a phone interview last week.
Asked whether he has requested donations, Aaron acknowledged that he has.
“I wish that they would just flow in without asking, but I have been asking, and you do have people that you’ll see and they’ll offer support, and sometimes monetarily,” he said.
Meanwhile, DeLoach’s campaign had received $15,439 in contributions, with $15,099 of that spent by June 30. In her case, contributions included $2,836 of in-kind donations and $12,603 in cash. Aaron had only cash contributions in his report.
DeLoach and her husband, who grew up in “I wouldn’t say low-income families, but pretty much so,” are running as frugal a campaign as possible, relying largely on seeing voters in person, she said. Her husband, John Corbett DeLoach, is both her campaign manager and treasurer.
“Going out on foot saves a lot of money,” Lorna DeLoach said.
Her campaign’s largest expense, she noted, is signs. Her reports show more payments to local company Action Signs than any other vendor.
What are the limits?
Candidates can spend any amount of their own money. But rules applied by the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission limit the amount any other individual can give a local candidate to $2,600 for an initial election plus $1,400 more for a resulting runoff. The limits are different for state and federal offices.
Aaron’s largest donors are mostly his relatives and close associates. Edenfield, Cox, Bruce and Classens PC made a $2,600 contribution. Aaron’s older brother, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Don Aaron, made donations of $2,600 and then $1,400, and Don Aaron’s wife, Lisa, also made $2,600 and $1,400 contributions.
Charlie Aaron’s brother-in-law, bank president Kevin Harrison, gave $2,400. A retired educator gave $3,000, attributed to both the May nonpartisan general election and the current runoff, and a school counselor gave $2,400.
The largest cash contributions DeLoach received, all in the March 31 reporting period, were the $1,894 she contributed to pay her own qualifying fee, and $1,400 from her husband’s business, DeLoach Exterminating. The company also made a $450 contribution in June.
DeLoach’s employer, Stafford Law Group, gave $1,405 worth of signs, the largest in-kind contribution her campaign has received.
In the second quarter, she received mainly smaller contributions. A Statesboro limited liability company, Cowart & Skipper, made two totaling $1,000 during the second reporting period.
Last week, DeLoach said her expenses in the last 10 days of the campaign would consist of more T-shirts, followed by election-day meals for volunteers.
“That (the meals) will probably the biggest expenditure I will have, and that will be a whopping $100, maybe,” DeLoach said.
When DeLoach received 33.7 percent and Aaron 30.6 percent of the votes in the May 24 primary, three other probate judge candidates were eliminated. But campaign finance reports were still required June 30.
Third-place candidate Martin G. “Marty” Waters’ campaign received $9,275 and zeroed out its account with exactly $9,275 in spending. Kevin R. Wadley reported receiving and spending exactly $89.69. Lonnie Ellis had not filed a June 30 report, but as of the March 31 report had received $1,260 in contributions and spent $1,196, leaving $64 in his campaign fund.
Candidates who do not intend to collect or spend more than $2,500 are not required to file the periodic reports, but are expected to file an affidavit of their intent not to exceed this amount. Candidates who collect or spend $2,500 to $5,000 are required to file reports within a week after June 30 and Oct. 25, and those who collect or spend more than $5,000 are required to file six reports in an election year.
In the same time frame, spending in the sheriff’s race exceeded $142,000, while that in the four-county Ogeechee Circuit Superior Court judge race topped $220,000. Unlike reports for regional offices such as the Superior Court judgeship, which are filed with the state Campaign Finance Commission and viewable online, disclosures for the probate judge and sheriff’s races are filed on paper in the Bulloch County Board of Elections office.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.