Steady fundraising, big loans mark latest campaign period for W.Va. governor’s races

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Steady fundraising and big loans marked the latest campaign reports for West Virginia’s candidates for governor.

Republican Woody Thrasher loaned his campaign almost a million dollars, and Democrat Ben Salango fueled his campaign with a half-million dollars.

But fundraising efforts picked up for several candidates too.

Incumbent Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, raised more than $400,000 based largely on an event with Donald Trump Jr. as the big draw. And Salango kicked off his campaign with more than $300,000 in donations.

Democrat Stephen Smith continued his steady march of small-dollar donations.

The deadline to file fundraising reports for the fourth quarter of 2019 was Tuesday.

The fundraising is one signal of the relative strength of campaigns as West Virginia draws closer to the Primary Election this spring. Here’s a closer look:

Justice pulls in fundraiser dollars, owes a lot

Jim Justice

Governor Jim Justice‘s re-election campaign pulled in $409,813 in monetary contributions this quarter.

Much of that — $358,355 — was from fundraisers. The biggest fundraiser was an event at The Greenbrier, owned by the Justice family, that pulled in $219,750. Donald Trump Jr., son of the president, was a special guest.

Another fundraiser at The Wonder Bar Steakhouse in Clarksburg brought in $111,100.

The Justice campaign also received a loan of $55,000.

The Justice campaign has unpaid bills of $228,905 and outstanding loans of $380,500. Most of the unpaid bills are to Encore Leasing, one of Justice’s own companies that has aircraft. Some of the other unpaid bills are to political consultants.

The Justice campaign reported paying down some of the debt reflected in prior filings, including to former campaign manager Mike Lukach and to The Greenbrier.

Justice ended the quarter with $67,183 cash on hand.

Thrasher loans his campaign big bucks 

Woody Thrasher

Woody Thrasher, a former Commerce Secretary running as a Republican, took in $52,489 in monetary contributions during the reporting period.

But the big dollars — $917,000 — came in the form of personal loans during the last quarter of the year.

Over the course of all the reporting periods so far, Thrasher has outstanding loans of $1,575,774.

Thrasher has been an active campaigner and advertiser. The campaign has been spending money about as soon as it’s available. The Thrasher campaign had $106,214 on hand at the end of the reporting period.

Mike Folk holds steady

Mike Folk

Former state Delegate Michael Folk, a Republican, loaned his campaign $90,000 during the prior reporting period, trying to demonstrate he’s willing to invest in his own campaign.

During this quarter, Folk loaned his campaign another $10,000.

Folk has $30,811 on hand at the end of the quarter.

Ben Salango raises a lot, self-funds a lot

Ben Salango

The campaign for Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango, a Democrat, sent out a statement last week that said, “SALANGO CAMPAIGN TAKES IN $875,000 FOR THE FIRST FILING OF THE PRIMARY ELECTION.”

A big part of that was contributions, $381,718.

The rest, $500,000, came from Salango’s pocket in the form of a campaign loan.

Much of the fundraising, $199,975, came during an event at Four Points by Sheraton in Charleston. That event was attended by many of Salango’s fellow plaintiffs attorneys.

The Salango campaign, which got started in late summer, has only spent $43,639 so far.

It has $808,078 on hand.

Senator Stollings chugs along

Ron Stollings

State Senator Ron Stollings, a Democrat, jumped into the governor’s race in the late summer.

His first filing shows he raised $168,690. Part of that was a transfer of $22,000 from his Senate campaign fund.

Stollings loaned his campaign another $20,000 of his own money.

The Stollings campaign has $157,614 on hand.

Smith fundraising tapers off a bit

Stephen Smith

Democrat Stephen Smith, who has had a hot streak of grassroots fundraising, reflected a little less than previous reports.

For the fourth quarter, the Smith campaign reported $121,068 in total monetary contributions.

Smith’s campaign reported $149,816 in contributions for the 3rd Quarter campaign finance reporting period. That was more than the $146,000 the Smith campaign raised the prior quarter. 

The campaign said its campaign finance report was so big that it didn’t immediately load properly into the Secretary of State’s system. As a consequence, campaign staff said, what was initially apparent on the Secretary of State’s website didn’t reflect the full scope of fundraising.

As usual, most of Smith’s fundraising came from small-dollar donors. The campaign says it has doubled the previous record for small-dollar donations in a West Virginia election.

The campaign says it is raising more money than competitors who have greater personal wealth.

“This campaign is brought to you by more working class people than any other in West Virginia history,” Smith stated.

The Smith campaign has $167,924 on hand going into 2020.

Jody Murphy in the mix

Jody Murphy

Democrat Jody Murphy, an economic developer in Pleasants County, has $1,348 on hand.

Entering the quarter, the campaign had a balance of negative $251.84. Since then, the campaign hasn’t spent any money.

Murphy reported monetary contributions of $1,600 during the quarter. Glenn Murphy of Fayetteville gave $1,000 of that.

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