More than a year before voters go to the polls for next year’s elections, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson has more than $75,000 in her campaign war chest, according to her campaign finance reports.
She raised more than $66,000 in the first half of 2013. Most of the donations, 42 of the 71 total, were for $1,000 or more. Thirteen were between $500 and $1,000 and 16 were for $250 or less.
Jack Basset, a retired advertising agency owner, has been involved in local politics for decades. He said he was surprised by the amount of money Tomlinson has been able to raise so early.
“This is typically when someone does start, about a year out,” Basset said. “But that’s an impressive amount. They must have gotten organized early and went to work early.”
Among the largest groups of contributors are, perhaps not surprisingly, attorneys, 17 of whom gave to her campaign. The same number of contributors are business owners or executives; eight are in health care, five are developers and 11 are retired. The list is filled with familiar names in Columbus business and political circles.
Mason Lampton, John Flournoy, Sam Wellborn, Sam Mitchell, John Flournoy Jr., Thomas Flournoy, Jim Butler, Bob Wright, Mat Swift, Joel Wooten, Richard Waddell, Ken Henson, Jimmy Yancey, Phil Tomlinson, Dan Amos, Bill Turner, Warren Steele, Bennie Newroth, Steve Butler, Bob Poydashef, Jim Wetherington, Betty and Cecil Cheeves, her husband Tripp Tomlinson and all the names on the letterhead of his (and her former) law firm of Pope, McGlamry, Kilpatrick, Morrison and Norwood are listed among the contributors.
Tomlinson said part of her early strategy this time around was to approach people who had been strong supporters of her opposition in 2010 and ask for their opinion on her administration and for their support.
“Money’s important in a campaign, but I think what more important about this particular list is that it’s not just the ‘echo chamber’ or close circle of supporters that candidates tend to have,” she said. “To have (former opponents) come on board enthusiastically and demonstrate that with generous campaign contributions is very encouraging.”
Tomlinson said she spent between $225,000 and $250,000 on her 2010 campaign, and expects the 2014 run to be just as expensive.
Her campaign will have to be run differently this time around, she said, because she has to be mayor at the same time. Last time around, she’d resigned from her position as executive director of Midtown Inc. and could devote her full time to the campaign.
“Being mayor is a full-time, all-the-time job,” Tomlinson said. “So you can’t just run your campaign all the time. You need a different kind of infrastructure, different kind of resources.”
Basset said when a candidate comes out of the blocks so strongly raising money, it can make potential candidates think twice before throwing their hat into the ring.
But Zeph Baker, who lost the 2010 race to Tomlinson in a runoff, and intends to challenge her again, said Tomlinson’s fundraising success hasn’t dampened his desire for a rematch.
Baker said he can’t start raising money until he officially is a candidate, but he expects to launch his campaign soon.
“We have our ground game rolling,” Baker said. “The next phase in the next couple of months is to start collecting the checks. We’ve gotten pledges and commitments so far. So we’ll be going back around and asking folks to honor those commitments.”