Several candidates and experts agree the money raised will play a large role in the primary election – in some ways more so than in the coming general election.
“Money definitely matters, especially in primary elections,” said David Lanoue, political science professor at the University of Alabama. “We’re usually dealing with candidates that don’t differ on the issues much, so they have to really spend to get their message out.”
State law required all candidates who had raised more than $5,000 to file their 10-5 day pre-election reports by May 27 with the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office. Candidates who did not meet the $5,000 threshold were not required to file anything, but were asked to file a waiver.
House District 35 Republican candidate Steven Dean of Munford raised $15,925, adding to an earlier $18,576 balance. Of his contributions, $14,000 came from a political action committee called NET PAC, which is a conservative Auburn-based PAC that supports pro-business candidates.
Dean spent more than $33,000, mainly on advertising, in the past month.
Dean said he thought money would be one of the deciding factors during the primary.
“It comes back to getting yourself and getting your message to as many people as you can,” he said. “You can’t be in every household personally.”
House District 35 Republican candidate Benjamin Crawford of Talladega raised more than $4,000, which all came from private individuals. Crawford already had more than $11,000 in his campaign coffer. He also received a $5,000 loan from a family member.
Crawford reported more than $9,000 in expenditures.
The third District 35 Republican candidate, Donald Wood of Oxford, filed a waiver of report.
In the Senate District 13 race, Democratic candidate Greg Varner of Ashland added $2,300 in contributions to his earlier balance of $10,237. Varner also received more than $135,000 worth of in-kind services for advertising from two Huntsville-based PACs, each of which states it promotes education, economic development and quality health-care.
Varner reported $4,438 in expenditures.
His primary opponent, Russell Emrick of Heflin, raised just $250, which was added to nearly $3,000 in earlier contributions. Emrick used more than $2,000 of his own money to fund advertising costs.
He reported $2,730 in expenditures.
Emrick said there was little question that money would factor into the election.
“Oh absolutely … I would like to think that it doesn’t, but I do think it has a bearing,” Emrick said. “A friend of mine recently got three mail-outs from him (Varner). I couldn’t afford to do a mail-out. You just saturate with money enough, you’re going to have the name recognition.”
Emrick said unlike his opponent, all his funding has come from friends and family and instead of using advertising he has traveled door-to-door to get votes.
“To me there is no substitute for looking a man in the eye, shaking his hand and asking for his vote,” he said.
Attempts Thursday to reach Varner were unsuccessful.
Of the few incumbents who will have to defend their seats in the primary, none were strapped for cash in the past month.
Democratic Rep. Richard Laird of Roanoke, who represents House District 37, raised more than $56,000, adding to a $45,339 balance. Much of his recent contributions came from several PACs, including $5,000 from a PAC representing the Alabama Forestry Association and $3,000 from a PAC associated with the Alabama Trucking Association.
Laird spent $17,384 in the past month, mostly on advertising.
His primary opponent, Rodney Walker of Wedowee, in contrast raised just $3,850, $2,500 of which came from a company called Gary Ingram Grading and Paving. Walker already had a negative balance of $9,225 and spent an-other $9,394, leaving him with a negative $14,394 balance.
Republican Rep. Randy Wood of Anniston, who represents House District 36, raised less with $16,350. However, that was added to a sizable earlier balance of $97,683.57. Of his contributions during the last few weeks, the largest single amounts came from PACs.
Wood reported $4,540.70 in expenditures.
His primary opponent, Beverly Owen Barber of Pell City, did not raise any funds and filed a waiver of report.
To Lanoue, though there is an anti-incumbent fervor currently sweeping across the nation, even without heavy funding, most Alabama incumbents should be safe through the primary.
“Most are going up against people without a lot of organization and who aren’t well-funded,” Lanoue said. “It’s the general election that’s the big open question. “We’ll see if the anger at incumbents keeps up until November.”
In the House District 40 election, Democratic candidate Lindsay Ford of Alexandria raised $2,000 from a company called Poolboy Pool Service, which she added to $104.96 in earlier contributions. She also pumped $1,000 of her own money into her campaign.
She reported $1,278 in expenditures.
Her opponent, Ricky Whaley of Jacksonville, who lost during a special election for the seat earlier this year, reported no contributions for the past month, but still has more than $10,000 in his campaign coffers.
Whaley reported $4,191 in expenditures for advertising and administrative fees.
Whaley said he did not think financing would be the most important factor in the primary election.
“I think the determining factor will be who went and talked to the most people … who went to fire departments and little league games,” Whaley said.
Whaley said since the special election earlier this year popped up so quickly, he did not have much time to meet people face to face.
“I’m doing that more now,” he said. “People want you to ask them to vote for you.”
Contact staff writer Patrick McCreless at 256-235-3561.