With last Friday’s deadline for submitting campaign finance reports now in the rear view mirror, we get the first glimpse at how candidates are doing in this phase of the run-up to next month’s primaries. That should definitely provide some interesting fodder in coming weeks for those who follow local elections closely.
With so much going on with the I77 tolls project recently, it seemed like a good idea to check up on the report for NC House 95 Representative, John Fraley. Fraley is currently the only Lake Norman area member of the General Assembly still openly supporting the project and its controversial contract with Spanish firm Cintra’s local subsidiary - I77 Mobility Partners.
When Fraley challenged Mooresville’s Robert Brawley for the seat back in 2014, his candidacy was widely speculated to be an effort supported by Raleigh power brokers backing the tolling project – people such as Thom Tillis, then the Speaker of the NC House. Back then, Brawley had been involved in a very public spat with the Speaker largely over the plan to put HOT lanes on I77.
Fraley’s 2014 campaign finance reports were highlighted by huge loans to his campaign from his own personal funds totaling over $80,000. He also raked in 10s of thousands of dollars more in contributions with much of that coming from out of state sources. Much of that war-chest, to the tune of over $64,0000, was spent with a high powered and well connected Raleigh political consulting outfit called The Stewart Group. Fraley’s campaign treasurer also happened to be the same firm used by most Republican US Federal candidates, a firm named CM&CO, out of Raleigh. One of that firm’s largest clients that cycle according to OpenSecrets.com just happened to also be the Thom Tillis US Senate campaign.
With all that political fire power backing him, Fraley eked out the primary election victory against Brawley by a mere 106 votes.
However, all of that may not be the most interesting thing about Fraley's reports that cycle. The most interesting was one donation from an address in Cornelius. That address would match the address on Cornelius Mayor Chuck Travis’s campaign reports. However, the name on the donation was not that of the Mayor, instead it was from his wife. In fact, the $2000 donation was one of the largest individual donations Fraley received last go-round.
All of that just provides a little background. What does it have to do with this cycle, you may be asking?
Here are two things.
First, Fraley has raised and spent much less this time – a mere $20,000 raised and less than $3,000 spent – leaving him with cash on hand of about $23,000. Things could certainly change after this report, but that’s a clear indication he believes he has little to fear from his primary challenger this time. That would be political newcomer and anti-toll candidate David W Thomson of Mooresville.
The second is that one of his biggest donors, continues to come from that same address linked to Cornelius Mayor and HOT lanes supporter, Chuck Travis. This time though, there is really no mistaking where that money originated. The name on the check is Travis’s, or more specifically the “Chuck Travis for Mayor” campaign committee. Travis raised an unusual amount of money last time for someone running unopposed – over $35,000. It was many times what he'd raised for his previous local campaigns.
Travis serves on the state's Turnpike Authority Board, so sending some of his leftover campaign cash to a fellow toll supporter to use in this cycle somehow seems sort of fitting.
That brings to mind another saying…
“Birds of a feather….”