CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s race for governor is shaping up as a battle of big loans versus small donations that add up.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stephen Smith has raised the most of any primary campaign so far with a blend of small donations and fundraisers both in-state and out-of-state.
“We’re able to build a campaign and a movement that literally belongs to thousands of people who have contributed,” Smith said during an appearance today on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”
Meanwhile, incumbent Gov. Jim Justice and his former Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, both running in the Republican primary, have loaned their campaigns thousands of dollars.
Thrasher made no bones about his donations to his own campaign.
“I know I’m new to politics, so I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is to prove that I’m a worthy candidate,” he stated, “and I’m just getting started.”
Campaign finance reports for the 2020 election in West Virginia were released Monday, giving a fairly good idea of the financial strength of the campaigns for governor.
Stephen Smith, a Democrat and former director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, raised the most money of the candidates on either side of the race.
Smith raised more than $146,000 during the quarter.
Of that, $109,951.90 came from direct contributions.
Among the donations the campaign received so far, 2,449 are from small donors. Smith’s 83-page report is the most voluminous of the candidates for governor.
The campaign reported $39,000 coming from donations of $250 or smaller and $71,000 from donations of $250 or more.
Smith said people view those donations as investments in the campaign.
“Whether it’s donating their money or their time as a volunteer, that donation absolutely translates into votes,” he said. “But not just votes — advocates, word of mouth.”
Smith also raised a total of $35,978.00 from fundraising events in places as far flung as Beckley, Morgantown, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Chicago, Brooklyn, Columbus, Chapel Hill, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Fayette County.
Smith said each of those fundraisers, no matter the location, was hosted by a West Virginian.
Smith’s campaign says it has hosted more than 87 town halls and kickoff events in every county in the state.
“We’re not running a run-of-the-mill campaign. We’re building a movement that can take on the Good Old Boys and win,” stated Johnna Bailey, the finance director of the Smith for WV campaign.
Smith’s campaign lists $300,465.88 in contributions for the year to date, along with $173,917.79 in expenses.
Smith’s campaign has $121,610.53 cash on hand.
.@WVCantWait speaks with @HoppyKercheval about what he is doing for fundraising that will help him run for governor, and where these contributions are coming from. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIAoe1 pic.twitter.com/lsiklRq2Ov
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) July 9, 2019
Governor Justice’s campaign reported contributions of $57,650.
Meanwhile, the governor loaned his campaign much more than that, $131,500 in three installments.
Justice, who was first elected as a Democrat, is now running as a Republican incumbent after a party switch two years ago.
A fundraiser for Justice featuring Donald Trump, Jr., the son of the president, was where all the donated money was raised.
“The Governor kicked off fundraising season with a great event with Donald Trump, Jr. and looks forward to continuing this momentum in Q3,” stated Mike Lukach, campaign manager for Justice.
Those who donated at the event included several people involved with the coal industry. Bill Raney and Chris Hamilton of the West Virginia Coal Association each gave $2,800 while Jason Bostic of the association gave $2,000. The coal association’s political action committee gave $2,500.
Blackhawk Mining President John Potter gave $2,800, White Forest Resources President and CEO Jeffrey Wilson gave $2,000, Andrew Jordon of Prichard Mining gave $1,000 and several more coal company political action committees also gave thousands of dollars.
Brian Abraham, general counsel for the Governor’s Office, gave $1,000, as did Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby. WVU coaching legend Don Nehlen gave $500.
All told, Justice’s campaign has spent $176,078.63.
The campaign has $13,071.37 on hand.
Justice’s campaign treasurer is listed as James T. Miller, who is also an officer in several of Justice’s family corporations.
Some Justice entities were also listed among those receiving money from the campaign. The Greenbrier, owned by Justice, received $2,651.23 listed as a repayment of debt.
Woody Thrasher, Justice’s former Commerce Secretary, raised $36,385. Some of Thrasher’s biggest individual donors are employees of the businessman’s Thrasher Group engineering and construction company. CEO Chad Riley was the most prominent.
Thrasher, running in the Republican primary, loaned his campaign $373,774 in eight installments.
Thrasher’s treasurer is Ron Stanley, the chief financial officer with Thrasher Engineering.
In a statement provided by his campaign, Thrasher acknowledged spending much of his own money.
His campaign has $53,402.35 cash on hand.
“I say it all the time, but I built my company by driving 58,000 miles every year, visiting every little community in West Virginia, and I’m ready to do it again to earn the Republican nomination for governor,” Thrasher said. “I’m making substantial investments in this campaign — my time and my money.”
Mike Folk, a former state delegate from Berkeley County and a Republican, reported raising $14,051 this quarter through contributions plus a fundraiser at his home.
Over the full campaign, Folk has $16,362.10 cash on hand.
Folk took aim at Justice with his own statement.
“It’s apparent he runs his campaigns the way he runs his businesses — in the hole.”