The North Carolina Insurance Law blog does a great job of giving us the story behind the numbers in the GOP runoff for NC commissioner of insurance:
The May 8 primary pitting Republican candidates Richard Morgan, Mike Causey, and James McCall against one another for the nomination for North Carolina Insurance Commissioner resulted in a surprisingly tight finish. Mr. Morgan finished in first place – barely – garnering 37% of the vote. Right behind him, Mr. Causey took home 35%, while political newcomer Mr. McCall finished stronger than expected with 28%. Because no candidate won 40% of the vote, a runoff election featuring Mr. Morgan and Mr. Causey has been scheduled for July 17.
With the runoff right around the corner, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the two candidates’ fundraising efforts to see if that information might tell us anything about the level of enthusiasm voters have for Mr. Morgan and Mr. Causey. As they are required to do, both candidates filed reports with the North Carolina Board of Elections in April reflecting first quarter fundraising data. Click on this link to be taken to Mr. Causey’s BOE records, and click on this link to be taken to Mr. Morgan’s BOE records.
At first glance, Mr. Morgan appears to have been the more successful fundraiser, outpacing Mr. Causey by a wide margin, $53,307 to $14,065. But those two figures don’t really tell the whole story …
While Mr. Morgan has the undeniable advantage in total campaign funds, a closer look suggests that Mr. Causey has been by far the more popular candidate among Republican donors.
Mr. Morgan’s $53,307 consists of loans and donations from a grand total of three donors – two of whom are Mr. Morgan and his wife. Together, the Morgans are responsible for $51,307 of the Morgan campaign’s funds, including a $50,000 personal loan from Mr. Morgan to his campaign with an interest rate of 5%. The third donor to the Morgan campaign was the PAC for Triangle Orthopaedics Associates, “the largest private orthopaedic practice in the Carolinas,” which contributed $2,000.
It is also worth pointing out that, including the recent $50,000 loan, Mr. Morgan’s last two campaigns (2012 Insurance Commissioner and 2008 Superintendant of Public Instruction) are in debt to the tune of $162,500.
In contrast to Mr. Morgan’s three donors, Mr. Causey’s $14,065 was donated by more than 200 contributors. Most of the donors were individuals from across the state who contributed relatively small sums. In addition to the individual donors, ten different county GOP organizations donated to Mr. Causey’s campaign, indicating that Mr. Causey is the clear preference among Republican party stalwarts.
On paper, then, Mr. Morgan appears to have had the much more successful spring when it comes to fundraising. When you look at the numbers more closely, however, Mr. Causey’s fundraising efforts show him to have much more successful where it counts most – voter enthusiasm.
It is also interesting to note that, despite having “raised” considerably more money than Mr. Causey, as of April 21 there was not much difference in the candidates’ cash-on-hand: Mr. Morgan had $10,437 left, while Mr. Causey still had $4,241. Based on those figures, it does not appear likely that either candidate will be able to win the July 17 runoff by outspending the other.
It is hard not to wonder which of the two Republican candidates incumbent Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin would prefer to see in the fall. On the one hand, Mr. Morgan has widespread name recognition based on his many years in state politics, and he has also shown over the years an ability and willingness to infuse substantial sums of his own money into his various campaigns: name recognition plus a well-funded campaign could equal a real challenge for Commissioner Goodwin. On the other hand, the state Republican establishment has a longstanding aversion to Mr. Morgan, who sufficiently angered the party through his power-sharing agreement with Democrats in the state House of Representatives following the 2002 election that he was excommunicated from the party. If Mr. Morgan ends up prevailing in the July 17 runoff, it is hard to imagine the Republican party working hard to get out the vote for him in November. Indeed, there may be more than a few Republicans who would sooner vote for the Democratic incumbent than for Mr. Morgan. With that in mind, Commissioner Goodwin might prefer to take his chances competing against Mr. Morgan despite Mr. Morgan’s name recognition and money.
One final note on the topic of campaign fundraising – whichever candidate takes home the Republican nomination on July 17 will find it very difficult to compete financially with Commissioner Goodwin. According to his campaign finance reports, Commissioner Goodwin has raised a total of $452,164 overall. As of April 21, he still had $272,542 cash-on-hand. As I noted on this blog last fall, Commissioner Goodwin has had considerable success raising campaign funds from contributors near and far. He will almost certainly be able to outspend his Republican opponent by a wide margin this fall.
In a related note, some readers in western North Carolina are telling me that Richard Morgan is running daily radio ads — during the Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity programs — claiming that Richard is a “good conservative.”
Really? How many good conservatives do you know that have been kicked out of the Republican Party?