Alabama governor has big money lead in 2014 race
by Tim Lockette
tlockette@annistonstar.com
Jul 07, 2013 | 4764 views |  0 comments | 115 115 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In this photo taken in June Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley talks with reporters at the Capitol in Montgomery. Bentley filed a campaign finance report Tuesday showing he took in $422,500 in contributions in his first month of fundraising for his re-election campaign. He had raised about $15,500 at the same point four years ago, when he was a little-known state representative from Tuscaloosa running in the Republican primary with six other candidates. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
In this photo taken in June Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley talks with reporters at the Capitol in Montgomery. Bentley filed a campaign finance report Tuesday showing he took in $422,500 in contributions in his first month of fundraising for his re-election campaign. He had raised about $15,500 at the same point four years ago, when he was a little-known state representative from Tuscaloosa running in the Republican primary with six other candidates. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
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Last month, Gov. Robert Bentley raised $442,500 toward his 2014 re-election bid, state records show.

The June fundraising puts the Republican governor more than half a million dollars ahead of his only declared primary opponent, while a Democratic challenger has yet to emerge.

"An incumbent with this much money will be a formidable opponent," said political scientist Glen Browder, a former Democratic Congressman who serves as emeritus professor of political science at Jacksonville State University.

Fundraising for the 2014 governor's race opened in June, one year from the date of primary voting for statewide races. So far, Bentley is the only candidate for governor to file a finance report for that time.

Records show Bentley raising $442,500, adding to the $236,671 already in his war chest. The governor's biggest donor was T-Town PAC II, a political action committee funded largely by construction and paving companies. The PAC gave Bentley $63,000 in June.

The governor spent $114,293 on administrative costs, advertising and polling in June, leaving him with $544,877.

Bentley has a sizable lead in the money race over any of his potential opponents. Former Morgan County Commissioner Stacy George, who has announced his intention to run against Bentley in the primary, didn't file a report. Candidates for governor aren't required to file reports until they've raised $25,000.

State school board member and Huntsville resident Mary Scott Hunter is also considering a run for governor, according to the Associated Press. State records show her still in the school board race for 2014, with $15,000 raised toward that race in June.

Bentley's campaign treasurer, Michael Echols, said the Bentley campaign was pleased with fundraising so far. He said it's far too early to tell whether the governor will maintain a fundraising lead throughout the race.

"These races can run up to several million dollars before they're over," he said. "So half a million is not that far ahead."

Democrats have yet to field a candidate in the race. In fact, campaign finance records show only one Democrat, state auditor candidate Miranda Joseph, in the running for a statewide office so far.

Attempts to reach Alabama Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Worley for comment Friday were unsuccessful.

In the 2010 race, the Democratic field filled up faster, with then-U.S. Rep. Artur Davis and then-Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks both announcing their candidacies by July 2009. Davis left the state and switched to the Republican Party after losing the Democratic nomination to Sparks; Sparks now works for Bentley as director of rural development.

The man at the top of the statewide ticket for Democrats in 2012 said he has no plan for a gubernatorial run.

"I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that I have no intention to run for governor," said Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance, who mounted an unsuccessful bid for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court last year.

Vance said the law doesn't allow sitting judges to run in non-judicial races, which would mean a run for governor would require him to resign from the bench.

Attempts to reach state House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, were unsuccessful Friday. Ford has told reporters in the past that he might consider a run for governor.

"I suspect that someone will step forward soon," Vance said of the Democratic field. "But that person will have a tough row to hoe."

Republicans now hold all of Alabama's statewide constitutional offices. The statewide Democratic party may not be in a strong position to offer campaign financing help candidates for those offices. State records show that the State Democratic Executive Committee has $2,834 in its war chest.

Browder, the political scientist, said it's inevitable that a Democratic candidate will emerge. Bentley's early fundraising lead, he said, could influence Republican challengers looking to face Bentley in the primary.

"If I'm a potential candidate looking to unseat an incumbent, that money is going to make me think long and hard," he said.

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.

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