Town Council race sees steep increase in candidate fundraising

As Tuesday’s municipal elections creep closer, campaign finance reports filed Monday show the Chapel Hill Town Council race is more costly — and more competitive — than two years ago.

Three candidates have collected more than $10,000 each since the election began, based on State Board of Elections filings.

First-time candidate and 2010 UNC graduate Lee Storrow continues to lead the pack, having amassed $11,208. Jon DeHart, who made an unsuccessful bid for the council in 2009, is close behind— having raised $11,180 since the start of the election cycle.

Infobox
Top Campaign Fundraisers, 2011 vs. 2009

2011

  • Lee Storrow raised the most at $11,208
  • John DeHart came in second at $11,180
  • Matt Czajkowski raised the third most at $10,639

2009

  • Gene Pease raised the most at $7,015
  • Matt Pohlman came in second at $6,901
  • Penny Rich raised the third most at $4,191, including voter-owned funds

Council incumbent Matt Czajkowski raised $10,639.

Council candidates Donna Bell, Jason Baker, Augustus Cho, Jim Ward, Carl Schuler and Laney Dale all raised less than $4,000.

Together, Czajkowski, DeHart and Storrow have raised more than the combined total reported by eight council candidates in 2009.

Raising $7,015, then-candidate Gene Pease was the top earner in 2009 ­— and one of two who collected more than $5,000.

“It’s significantly more competitive, and I don’t think anyone really knows exactly how it’s going to turn out,” DeHart said.

Czajkowski raised the most in October, netting nearly $7,000 — more than DeHart and Storrow raised in the same time combined.

Reports also show a spike in campaign spending, as candidates have ramped up efforts to reach voters and explain their platforms. Most candidates have concentrated spending on informational mailers, yard signs and other campaign literature, based on reports.

Damon Circosta, executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education, said candidates can’t afford to send out campaign mail to all registered voters, so they must be strategic.

“In most local races, candidates rely heavily on direct mail to target the voters they know are certain to vote in the next election,” he said. “So there is a small universe of people in Chapel Hill receiving a whole bunch of campaign mail and many others who aren’t receiving any.”

Circosta said the target group tends to be older community members who have lived in the same location for a number of years, with students generally missing the cut because of frequent address changes.

DeHart spent $7,745.27 on campaign operating expenditures in October — more than anyone else. In addition to mailed brochures, fliers and glossy yard signs, DeHart said he tried to reach younger voters with social media.

DeHart said Facebook advertising has helped spur more than 2,000 visits to his campaign website — up from less than 500 in 2009.

Storrow said he dedicated most of his more than $3,000 in October campaign spending to buttons, mailers and yard signs.

But he said he has also talked to his former classmates.

“I’ve been in the Pit talking to students about the issues they care about, and this morning, I stood outside Granville Towers.”

Czajkowski spent money on his website and said he has seen more youth participation and online campaigning — but expects traditional methods to stay.

“Although Facebook and Twitter have become more pervasive, it still doesn’t seem efficient in and of itself.”

Circosta said thanks to an increase in online campaigning and young candidates, the youth vote will become more important.

“The day isn’t far off where young people are going to become a powerful force in elections.”

Contact the City Editor at city@dailytarheel.com

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