Mau way ahead of McMahan in campaign fundraising
By Quintin Ellison / WNC News Share
JACKSON COUNTY -- If the race for chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners hinges on fundraising, then Republican Ron Mau is looking like a shoo-in.
Mau, currently the commissioner from District 3, which includes some of southern Jackson County, set a blistering pace in the first two quarters of 2018, raising $15,488 in his bid to unseat Chairman Brian McMahan, a Democrat.
By comparison, the current chairman’s war chest is a paltry affair. McMahan raised just $1,200 during the initial two quarters of 2018, according to state-mandated financial disclosure forms on file at the Jackson County Board of Elections.
The money fueling Mau’s campaign has flowed largely from the southern portion of the county, via well-heeled, politically connected Glenville and Cashiers residents, a Sylva Herald review of candidate financial data, as well as research into major donors, shows.
Mau’s haul includes $5,000 from Birmingham, Alabama magnate Charlie Tickle, a Glenville property owner and longtime donor to conservative candidates.
Tickle kicked in dollars last year in support of former Alabama Sen. Luther Strange, who lost a Republican primary race despite President Donald Trump’s backing.
Mau said southern Jackson County donors are underwriting his local campaign for straight up, straightforward reasons.
“They are telling me they believe in people before politics, and that I’ll do a good job as commissioner, and they are eager to support me,” he said.
Fundraising is part and parcel of waging a successful campaign, Mau said, and the amount he has raised points to “my seriousness about serving the people of Jackson County.”
“The first thing you have to do is get out there and raise money,” Mau said. “I intend to continue working hard through November, December and beyond.”
For his part, McMahan said the disproportionate contributions help to highlight the candidates’ differences and “elections are won at the ballot box and not in a bank vault.”
“I’m confident the people of Jackson County will figure out that it is sure not about ‘people before politics’ when big money is involved,” he said. “The re-elect Brian McMahan for Chairman campaign is supported and financed by the hard-working people of Jackson County. Votes are more important than dollars. I have the right message, experience and the support of the people, and that is what matters.”
Mau’s fundraising prowess reflects an overall shift in American politics toward more orchestrated local campaigns, Chris Cooper, professor and department head in the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs at Western Carolina University, said Monday.
“I think it’s a sign of the increasing professionalism of lower-ballot elections,” he said. “There’s a trend toward increasingly politicized, increasingly nationalized elections.”
Mau’s fundraising success “is interesting for the future of our county, with the money coming from the southern end and much of it from part-time residents,” Cooper said.
Mau has the “makings for higher political office,” according to the WCU professor. “He’s checking a lot of those boxes and access to a fundraising network is one of them.”
The candidate rejected the possibility he might be looking beyond being chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.
“That is not on the radar at all right now,” he said.
• $1,000, split between two checks dated April 27 and May 2, from Chuck Watson of Burns Street LLC, a business incorporated in North Carolina. Watson helped develop Cottage Walk in Cashiers, described on a website as luxury, in-town housing.
• $1,000 on May 6 from Jeff Sikes of Cashiers. A developer from Huntsville, Alabama, Sikes owns Sikes Holdings and operates The Global Craftsman/Reclamations in Cashiers, as well as a tiny home sales center in Cashiers.
• $1,000 on May 16 from Tom and Robin Crawford. The couple owns a store in southern Jackson County, the Cashiers Farmers Market.
• $1,000 on May 18 from Glenn Ubertino of Cashiers. Two years ago, he purchased Zoller Hardware, Gifts and Gadgets Mercantile. Ubertino serves on the county’s planning council for Cashiers.
• $500 on May 22 from Cullowhee resident Jack Debnam, who owns Western Carolina Properties and previously served as chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, unaffiliated with a political party. Former Gov. Pat McCrory appointed Debnam, now a registered Republican, as the region’s representative to the N.C. Board of Transportation.
• $1,000 on May 29 from John Lyon of Birmingham, Alabama, who owns land in the Mountaintop Golf and Lake Club. In the campaign reports, Lyon lists his occupation as coal production with Drummond Company. Lyon is married to Terri Drummond Lyon, sister of Drummond Company board member Patrick Drummond.
• $1,000 on May 29 from Patrick Drummond of Birmingham, Alabama, who owns property in Sapphire in the Fairfield Subdivision, a town house. Patrick Drummond is a board member of Drummond Company
This year, Drummond Company Political Action Committee (DPAC) has donated $42,000 (82 percent to Republicans and 18 percent to Democrats) to federal candidates. DPAC’s single largest contribution in 2018 was for $10,000 to former Alabama Sen. Luther Strange, according to campaign-fundraising website OpenSecrets.
• $5,000 on June 3 from Charles Tickle. Tickle lives in Birmingham, Alabama and has property in Mountaintop Golf & Lake Club in Cashiers. He owns Daniel Corporation and is chief executive of Daniel Communities. In 2017, Daniel Communities took over management of High Hampton Inn.
• $1,000 on June 25 from James Nichols. He retired after operating the Crossroads Exxon service station (now Crossroads BP) in Cashiers.
• $50 on May 8 from Ken Henke, a retired high school administrator and former chairman of the Jackson County Board of Education.
• $200 on May 8 from Kirk Stephens, a faculty member at Southwestern Community College who serves on the Jackson County Board of Elections.
• $100 on March 29 from Anna Hall of Sylva, who retired from the Department of Social Services.
• $100 on June 11 from Jerry Lee Melton of Sylva, a security guard.
• $100 on June 11 from Ed Harwood of Whittier, a retired real estate agent.
• $100 on June 22 from Phil Haire of Sylva, a former state house member.
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