While Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens defeated Republican primary challenger Jackie Archer in May, he may not run unopposed in November.
Ahrens and Archer filed their campaign finance reports for the latest candidate reporting period ending June 30, along with potential independent candidate Carolyn Cosby, as she awaits word of whether or not her name will make it on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Cosby, former leader of the Canton T.E.A. Party, submitted a petition with thousands of signatures to the Cherokee Elections office Tuesday and, if verified by Aug. 1, she will run as an independent against Ahrens in the November general election.
“We have 20 percent-plus signatures extra on there, so we think that’s plenty to be on the ballot,” Cosby said. “We think once I’m on the ballot, we will win. We believe people are looking for a choice.”
If Cosby’s petition is not verified, Ahrens would run unopposed in the general election, and he said Thursday he needs to know “the signatures are good” before changing his campaign plans.
“If it was uncontested I wouldn’t have to do anything,” he said, adding that, if the seat is contested, he would campaign similarly to what he did in the primary. “I will campaign and communicate with the residents with information that I think will help them make good choices … The main thing is getting voters out, I’m absolutely convinced. If we get a good turnout, there won’t be any surprises.”
All three who filed reports of their campaign finances for the commission chair seat loaned themselves money, while also garnering thousands in contributions both large and small, campaign disclosures for the period ending June 30 show.
Ahrens spent the most on his campaign in the last filing period, both loaning himself the most and receiving the most contributions of the three who reported campaign finances.
Cosby spent the least on campaigning during the reporting period, but was the only one of the three to report finances who was not campaigning for the May primary.
“We’re doing a lot of the groundwork that needs to be laid in order for the campaign to go forward,” Cosby said Thursday, adding she and her supporters were “very positive” about the campaign. “We’re moving forward; we’re assuming we’ll be on the ballot.”
Archer, who was defeated by Ahrens in May, loaned herself the least amount of the three who reported finances in the filing period.
Ahrens loaned himself $30,000 for his campaign in the last filing period, and received more than $6,500 in monetary contributions of more than $100.
“It’s expensive,” Ahrens said of campaigning for the seat. “The big difference between a commission district seat and at-large is big numbers.”
His biggest contributors were the activist group Better Georgia, which gave $1,000, and Gary Hite of Ball Ground who gave $1,500.
He also received more than $3,500 of in-kind contributions, and more than $2,000 in small donations of $100 or less. The majority of in-kind contributions to Ahrens’ campaign were made in the form of venue use and food donations.
Archer loaned herself $800 in the last reporting period, also receiving nearly $3,000 in large monetary contributions, more than $8,500 of in-kind contributions and about $3,400 in small donations of less than $100 each.
Archer’s in-kind donations totaled more than the monetary contributions made to her campaign, with the largest sum of in-kind contributions use for events, totaling more than an estimated $8,000. She received in-kind donations of $2,500 each from Steve Marcinko and Karen Marcinko, and $2,500 from G.E.M. Contractors, which is owned by Steve Marcinko.
Her largest monetary contributor was Lori Pesta, former vice chair of the Cherokee Republican Party, who gave $1,000 to the campaign. She also received $500 from Jeff and Angela Chattin and $500 from Yancey Brothers Co.
Cosby loaned herself $2,500 in the latest filing period that ended June 30. She also received $6,300 in large monetary contributions and $937 in smaller donations of less than $100.
Cosby’s largest contributions came from her daughter, Tracy Torgerson, and son-in-law, Daniel Torgerson, who each gave $2,500. The next largest contribution of $1,000 came from current Canton T.E.A. Party leader John Hiland, who took over after Cosby resigned her position to pursue a run for the commission chair seat.
Cosby’s main expense so far has been paying 14 people to help gather signatures for the petition she submitted this week, accounting for more than $5,800 of Cosby’s $6,272 total expenditures reported in the latest period.
“We knew we needed perpetual help on this, because we knew we had to have trained people that knew how to go about doing this,” she said of the expense for petitioners. “It was a legitimate expense in the whole campaign.”
As of June 30, Cosby noted $3,465 remaining as she moves forward with her campaign.
In contrast Ahrens’ largest expenditure in the last reporting period was for campaign mailers, accounting for more than $16,500 of his total of $52,340 in expenditures.
“Communications, done in the right way with facts and information that voters can use, however you get it to them, is important,” Ahrens said. “In most cases, direct mail was the most affecting. People actually emailed and called me and said they got the mailer, and said it was really informative and positive and effective. But it’s also expensive … you’re looking at eight or nine thousand dollars to do a mailing.”
Ahrens had $1,863 left in campaign funds as of June 30.
Archer’s largest expense in the last reporting period was $4,177 that went to Rome-based company HiTech Signs, with the second-biggest expense being advertising, accounting for just less than $4,000 of her total of $11,237 in expenditures.
Archer noted a campaign fund balance in the negative by $2,105, for the period ending June 30.
There are two remaining periods for campaign finance disclosures to be submitted before the November election, including periods that end Sept. 30 and Oct. 25, according to the Cherokee County Elections and Voter Registration website. Another reporting period after the general election will conclude Dec. 31.