It does not take long to review the second quarter campaign financial statement of incumbent Governor Jim Justice. It’s just 12 pages and the quick summary is this: The Republican raised $57,560 at a June 20th fundraiser and loaned his campaign $131,500.
The same goes for Woody Thrasher. The Republican challenger received contributions totaling $36,385, but the big number on the 13-page report is the personal loan. Thrasher put $373,774.10 of his own money into the campaign between April 1st and June 30th.
Then there’s the report by Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Stephen Smith. The file is a whopping 83 pages long. That’s because so many individuals contributed to his campaign.
He raised $38,952 from just over 1,000 donors who gave less than $250. The pages are filled with the names of people who gave ten and twenty dollars. A few made donations of just three bucks!
But it adds up. (Read more from Brad McElhinny here.)
The many individual donations combined with a couple of small fundraisers netted his campaign $146,429.90 in the second quarter. That makes Smith far and away the leading fundraiser for the quarter.
This fundraising aligns with Smith’s campaign strategy; build a broad base of support across the state rather than relying on a smaller number of big donors. He has also hosted more than 87 town halls and campaign events.
“We’re able to build a campaign and a movement that literally belongs to thousands of people who have contributed,” Smith said on Talkline.
Modern campaigns are mostly an amalgam of polls, media saturation, third party attack ads, followed by more polls and more ads. That often works if you have enough money. If you lose, the consultant will say you didn’t spend enough money!
Smith is taking a different path, and it’s working so far. One of the biggest challenges for an unknown candidate is to get the media to take you seriously. This campaign finance report confirms that Smith is a viable candidate with a smart strategy.
But it’s still early. The Democratic race will undergo a seismic shift if—and that’s a big if—U.S. Senator Joe Manchin gets in the race. He appears to be leaning in that direction, but he has made no final decision.
Until then, keep an eye on Stephen Smith. His politics are significantly left of center and West Virginia is now a red state. Popular Republican President Donald Trump and Shelley Moore Capito will be at the top of the 2020 ballot creating down ballot support for the GOP nominee for Governor.
Those are significant headwinds for the former director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition. However, Smith and his small army of supporters can worry about that later.
Right now, he’s on a roll.