In the first cycle of campaign finance reporting, Political Action Committees seem to be playing a much smaller role in the Wake County Board of Education elections than they did in the 2009 elections.
In 2009 various PACs donated more than $6,000 to candidates in the first major reporting cycle (known as the 35-day report) alone. According to campaign reports so far this year, they’ve donated none.
PACs are special interest groups, which take in money and then re-distribute it to candidates they support, as well as use the money for advertising. People on both sides of the schools debate said PACs played an important role in the last school board election.
Of the $6,000 in PAC money reported in the 35-day report two years ago, $2,000 came from Wake Community Schools Alliance and was spread evenly among the four pro-neighborhood schools candidates. $4,000 came as an isolated donation from the NC Homebuilder’s Association PAC to Horace J. Tart who lost to John Tedesco. The homebuilder’s PAC made no other contributions to school board races.
However, over the ensuing weeks in the last election, WCSA went on to donate more than $10,000 dollars across the various pro-neighborhood schools campaigns.
WCSA’s website claims, “The dedicated efforts of our more than 250 volunteers and the $50,000+ we raised were largely responsible for the historic election of the four pro-family members to the Wake County School Board that Fall.”
But this year WCSA is using a more targeted approach. “I threw the request out there to donate [through the PAC]… but a handful of us just decided we wanted to contribute individually to one candidate in particular,” said Kristen Stocking of WCSA.
The candidate they’re supporting is Jennifer Mansfield, who worked heavily with WCSA in 2009. She’s running against Incumbent Democrat Kevin Hill, GOP-endorsed Heather Losurdo, and Republican Eric Squires in District 3.
So far Mansfield trails significantly in fundraising to Hill and Losurdo. She has raised $3,500 to Hill’s $15,000 and Losurdo’s $30,000. Squires pledged to raise less than $1,000 and will not have to complete any disclosures.
“We wouldn’t turn money away, but we didn’t push in that direction this year,” said Stocking. She said the group is doing “more on the ground, grassroots stuff” to get its candidate elected. That means going around, knocking on doors and making sure District 3 residents know where Mansfield stands on the issues, Stocking said.
But it’s an unanswered question whether that kind of effort can make up for $50,000. “The parental energy doesn’t seem to be there as much,” said Stocking in reference to the elections of two years ago.
Another major donor in 2009 was the North Carolina Association of Educators PAC. It donated $2,000 to pro-diversity candidates in each of the four races.
However, NCAE donated all of the money after the first significant disclosure deadline. The next disclosure deadline for candidates is October 3rd, one week before the election.