In a few days, candidates for local office in Georgia will file their campaign finance reports. Georgia law requires that every candidate for elected office disclose every contributor, contribution amount, loan, and expense on a periodic basis. The media and political insiders often look at these reports to determine which candidates are viable and which are not. They will scour the disclosures looking for well-known names and large expenses drawing many conclusions that are much too soon to make.
Some candidates will have disappointing fundraising results, while others will have way more money in their campaign account than they need to win uncontested races. Those with more money will offer funding to their favorite candidates or hoard money for future races. Those with less money than necessary will sound the alarms and revamp their campaign strategies adjusting it to their financial reality.
Some candidates, let’s hope not too many, will not file their reports on time, file incomplete reports, or not file at all. These will face small fines and potential embarrassment by the press. Nevertheless, these transgressions happen every disclosure period and some candidates are repeat offenders.
The administrative side of politics isn’t glamorous. It takes time and attention to detail if not by the candidate certainly by his or her team. The details matter. As a candidate, I had to face the consequences of good and bad staff work. It’s one thing to preach transparency, but practicing it is much harder.
Raising money is nearly every candidate’s least favorite chore and every consultant’s best advice. The truth is most candidates have to spend more time fundraising than friend-raising because campaign literature, television and radio advertising, professional staff and operation costs can mount quickly.
Most voters don’t know or don’t care about campaign finance reports. Except for the media coverage of the reports, voters generally aren’t interested, even though the candidates they learn the most about usually have well-funded campaigns. Very few candidates can win elections without spending more than half their campaign time fundraising.
As the campaigns, even those in which candidates are unopposed, get rolling here are other factors I consider before I vote:
1. How do you rate the candidate on intelligence, integrity and grit?
2. What does he or she stand for?
3. Can you count on the candidate to live up to his or her commitments?
4. Can he or she make a case for gaining your trust?
5. Is the candidate a leader or a follower? How do you know?
The candidate’s life experience, how they have faced adversity, or how they have taken advantage of opportunities all are factors I consider. Also, whether or not I believe the candidate cares more about the city more than their political future. Lastly, does he or she walk the talk or just blow hot air.