Stephen Smith’s ‘small ball’ fundraising producing big returns

It takes awhile to read through Stephen Smith’s campaign finance reports.

The Democratic Gubernatorial candidate’s 2nd quarter report was 83 pages. The recently filed 3rd quarter report covered 92 pages.

Most of those pages are filled with name after name after name of individuals who have contributed to Smith’s long-shot campaign.

Stephen Smith

On April 21, Nicole Keller donated $5. April Frye gave $3 to Smith’s campaign on May 11.  George Jacobs gave $10 on July 1.  Later that month, Elliott Hicks contributed $59.

And on it goes, page after page.

Many of the contributions are larger—$100 and $200—but the Smith campaign has built its financial base on donations of less than $250.

He’s had his share of fundraisers—many of them out of state—but they have raised small amounts as well.  An event in Brooklyn, New York, last April brought in just $322.

Most politicians for statewide office abstain from the nickel and dime contributions.  They chew up too much time and the amounts collected never seem to add up to enough to run an effective campaign.

However, Smith’s “small ball” approach to fundraising is working.  His campaign reported $149,816 in contributions in the 3rd quarter. That’s slightly more than his 2nd quarter total of $146,000.

As our Brad McElhinny reported, “To date, the Smith campaign has raised $452,692.34 overall.  After expenses, the campaign has $166,866 cash on hand.”

That’s remarkable. I can’t remember the last time a candidate for statewide office built their financial platform on hundreds and hundreds of small donations.  Smith uses his fundraising strategy as a statement about his campaign.

“The only way we get a government of the people is to have campaigns funded by the people,” Smith said.  “We’re proud to break the record for small donations in a West Virginia Governor’s race, and we’re just getting started.”

Of course, Smith has a long way to go, and more candidates are getting in the race all the time.  Two more Democrats—Senator Ron Stollings and Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango—entered the race just in the last two weeks.

Also, Smith is a progressive.  His views are endearing him to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party in West Virginia, and you must figure all those donations will translate into votes, but that’s a finite number.  A 2017 MetroNews West Virginia Poll found just one in four voters identifies as very or somewhat liberal.

But Stephen Smith should not be underestimated. If you doubt he’s building a base of support, just look through all those pages of small donor names.


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