Democrats running for the three open seats on the Wake County Board of Commissioners have a strong money advantage coming into this year’s general election season.
According to the most recent campaign finance reports, incumbent Democrat Betty Lou Ward has raised $17,210 compared to her Republican opponent Paul Fitts’ $970 in the race for District 6.
Democrat Caroline Sullivan is far outpacing her Republican opponent Dale Cooke. She raised $45,945 compared to his $1,674 in a race for the seat soon vacated by Erv Portman.
The third Democrat, James West, is running unchallenged. He was appointed to the county commission from the Raleigh City Council to serve out the remainder of Harold Webb’s term.
Even though candidates must reside in the district they represent, they are elected by the county as a whole.
During the last County Commission elections in 2010, Republicans rode the tide of conservative sentiment into all four open seats on the seven-member board.
Incumbent Republicans Paul Coble, Tony Gurley and Joe Bryan easily defeated their opponents. Phil Matthews defeated then-incumbent Democrat Lindy Brown, giving Republicans the majority.
Republicans have often held the majority, despite the fact that as a county, Wake leans to the left. Voter registration shows the county made up of 40.9 percent Democrats, 29.9 percent Republicans and 29.2 percent unaffiliated.
As Democratic challenger Caroline Sullivan notes, Wake is far bigger than a congressional district, and bigger than several states.
So far, Sullivan represents the only notable fundraising success.
She and Cooke are running for the open District 6 seat, which is being vacated by Commissioner Erv Portman for his bid for the NC State Senate.
Sullivan’s fundraising advantage began with personal ties. Her first $10,000 came from a $4,000 donation from her father and $6,000, which she loaned her campaign.
But since then her fundraising has taken on a life of its own. The campaign has raised an additional $35,000 in outside donations since April 22.
Cooke said it’s too early to start reading the money.
“Fundraising activities begin in earnest in July and August and that probably shouldn’t be a concern to anybody until closer to the election,” Cooke told the Record in an interview this week.
Sullivan said the personal money that flowed into her campaign is a reflection of how much she cares about the office.
“There’s a lot vying for voters attention,” she said. “It’s important for my campaign since I’m new to local politics.”
Ward has served on the county commission since 1988 and started the election season with more than $14,000 in her campaign bank account. So far, she has spent $7,000 in her bid to defeat Fitts.
Fitts, on the other hand, drained a considerable local election war chest in an unsuccessful bid for City Council last fall.
At the time he raised more than $23,000. But the only thing left after that campaign was $122, which he transferred to his new campaign committee for County Commission.