Biggest war chests win offices

April 14, 2002
Biggest war chests win offices
Spenders carry 3 races

Doug Nurse – Staff
Sunday, April 14, 2002

The winners of the past three special elections were the candidates with the money, campaign financial disclosure reports show.

David Shafer, who won the state Senate District 48 seat, spent a whopping $101,000, more than 10 times what his closest opponent spent. The seat he sought pays $16,000 a year.

Michael Muntean, who spent $19,185, was elected to the state House District 85 seat, besting two other people in the race.

And for Gwinnett County Commission District 2, tax and government attorney Bert Nasuti spent $36,000 to win that race, which pays $12,500. One of his opponents did not raise or spend a dime campaigning, according to his disclosure report.

Special elections aren’t necessarily as influenced by money as general elections or primaries, said political consultant Mark Rountree of Landmark Communications.

“Ground troops are more important than money,” Rountree said. “Special elections don’t turn as much on advertising as they do on the message and ground troops. Money helps, though.”

Rountree said that Shafer’s expenditures are not out of line for a tough Senate race against an incumbent state representative like Bobby Reese, a Republican from Sugar Hill.

“It depends on the race,” Rountree said. “If it’s a competitive race, the cost is up.”

Shafer, a former candidate for the state Republican Party chairman, started organizing his campaign supporters and raising money months before the seat actually came open, said Rountree, who managed Shafer’s race. The District 48 post was long rumored to be an open seat with the impending appointment of incumbent Billy Ray to the Superior Court. On Jan. 9, Gov. Roy Barnes appointed Ray to the bench, launching a scramble among Senate hopefuls to replace him.

Shafer’s contributions came from a variety of businesspeople and lobbyists. Of the $137,000 he raised, he spent most of it on targeted mail pieces and telephone banks.

Much of his money came from lobbying groups, such as Georgia Trial Lawyers Association, Georgia Industrial Loan Association, the Coca-Cola Political Action Fund, the National Rifle Association and the Medical Association of Georgia.

Reese decided to challenge Shafer, but, in the short three-week campaign, was able to raise only $12,250, according to his campaign financial disclosure report.

Reese received some money from political action committees, such as the Georgia Optometric Association and the American Sound Conservative PAC, but many of his contributions came from individuals.

Candidate Nathan Warnock of Buford raised no money but spent $3,000. J.D. Elliott of Duluth raised about $2,300.

Reese’s bid for the state Senate left his seat open. Muntean, Glen Wendt of Duluth and Gregory Alspach of Buford then campaigned to fill Reese’s unexpired term.

Muntean raised $18,474, receiving contributions from a variety of businesses in metro Atlanta, most from Gwinnett County. Wendt reported raising $3,100. Alspach raised $2,400. State representatives also are paid $16,000 a year.

Nasuti also began getting his campaign in order well before incumbent Commissioner Patti Muise was actually appointed to Recorder’s Court as rumored.

Celia Rosenblum of Norcross raised $1,100, and Euclides Peralta Jr. of Norcross raised and spent no money.

Even though he was running against political neophytes, Nasuti raised almost $50,000 and spent $36,000, much of it on printing and postage. Many of his contributions came from fellow attorneys and contractors, engineers and business leaders in the county.

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