With filing for the 2016 elections opening on Tuesday, the race for NC House 95 is shaping up to be ground zero for the next round of anti-toll activist fury. The current issue of Cornelius Today alludes to such, referring to an email from Greg Wallace of the I77 Business Plan with the subject "Target Acquired". The "target" is apparenly NC-95 Rep John Fraley.
At the end of October former long-time State Rep Robert Brawley of Mooresville announced his intent to setup a rematch from the last round of legislative elections. Fraley edged out Brawley in the primary last cycle by just a little more than 100 votes.
(Brawley recently said he was also looking at the Governor's race, but we think a better choice would be this rematch.)
Both Brawley and Fraley are Republicans, and this is a heavily Republican district, so the real election will occur in the March primary. With that in mind, we took a look at the campaign filings for the 2013 primary to see if there was any indication of what we could expect.
What we saw in Fraley's filings was not pretty!!!
When Fraley filed in late 2013 to challenge Brawley, there was widespread speculation among anti-toll activists that he was put up to it by pro-toll forces in the Raleigh establishment. Fraley recently came fully out of the pro-toll closet with his comments in this article from the Mooresville Tribune. However, a close look at Fraley's finance reports provides validation of those concerns from back in 2013.
Fraley kicked off his 2014 campaign fundraising by "loaning" his campaign a whopping $75,000. The mega-loan to a campaign by well heeled candidates has become all too common in local elections. As we've written before, it is intended to shock and awe potential opponents (and those who might donate to them) into dropping out or not running at all. The massive "loan" also begs the question "what will Fraley do to pay himself back?"
During the 2014 primary, Fraley spent over $11,000 on "polling". In fact, his first campaign expense was a $6,000 expense for polling work prior to his actually filing for office. For a legislative race in a district that a covers only one county, that kind of spending sure seems indicative of someone who doesn't know what his neighbors want and is just holding his finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.
Fraley also had other eyebrow raising expenditures.
There are numerous expenses to several different individuals listed under the category of "Field Representative". Another way to read that would be "Paid Campaign Worker". Notably, few to none of these people appear to be from the district. Again, when you have to pay people to work for you rather than having enough volunteers to get the job done, what does that say about a candidate's connection to the local area?
However, the most disturbing expenditures in Fraley's primary campaign reports are he massive expenditures to The Stewart Group. In this short cycle Fraley's campaign sent $64,062.20 to this Raleigh political consulting outfit. The Stewart Group is highly connected to the Raleigh Republican Establishment. Read up on the outfit's founder Dee Stewart in these stories from the DailyHaymaker.com here, here, and here. (Make sure to read the comments.)
Any candidate who hires these guys to work for them should be highly suspect. Having them on a campaign's payroll should induce any voter to run the other way, and run fast.
All of that is just some of the ways Fraley chose to spend his campaign cash. Where Fraley got his campaign cash beyond that mega loan from himself is also interesting.
The first thing that jumps off the page from his campaign's original filing covering the period until the end of 2013 is the large amount of out of state cash Fraley raked in. Numerous donations rolled in from New York to Florida, from Massachusetts to Tennessee - as well as several other states. The largest individual contribution was a $4,000 check from someone in Florida.
It is one thing for residents in Cornelius, Davidson, and Mooresville to take an interest in elections in a fellow Lake Norman town like, oh let's say Huntersville. One has to wonder though why so many people from across the country would spend money to get a state legislator elected in another state.
But maybe the most interesting contribution of all was a $2,000 donation that came with an address in Cornelius. It was the largest local campaign contribution in the 2013 year-end filing. The address listed also happens to be the same address listed on Cornelius Mayor Chuck Travis's 2009 campaign organization form. That would be the same Mayor Travis named last year to the state Turnpike Authority by Thom Tillis. That's the body in charge of the state's toll roads. It would also be the same Mayor Travis who recently returned from Texas to tell us how great Cintra's toll roads are working in the Lone Star State.
However, the name on this donation is not that of the Cornelius Mayor, but it does match that of his wife.
One can learn a lot about a candidate by looking at where they get their money and how they spend it. Rep John Fraley's campaign reports should tell anti-toll voters all they need to know.