Abraham Mahshie – Contributing Writer
Vice Mayor Barbara McRae, 76, plans to raise $5,000 to challenge incumbent Franklin Town Mayor Bob Scott, 78, who faces a mayoral rival for the first time in six years.
“I’ve already raised $1,000, that’s pretty good, huh?” McRae said in a phone interview Tuesday. McRae revealed her plans to conduct fundraising while attending an event Saturday organized by the Nikwasi Initiative, for which she serves as co-chair.
The vice mayor said her team looked at the 2013 election records and chose the goal of $5,000 based on the figure that carried candidate Scott to a resounding 72.6 percent of the vote against local schoolteacher, Sissy Pattillo. In that year, Scott raised $5,220 while Pattillo raised $3,507.
“Advertising is very expensive, so $5,000 might be a good figure,” said McRae.
The decision to raise more than $1,000 would mean her treasurer will have to file a new Certification of Threshold with the State Board of Elections. In documents reviewed by The Macon County News, both Scott and McRae certified that they intend to “neither receive nor expend more than $1,000 during the current election cycle.”
Gary Tallent, deputy director of the Macon County Board of Elections, said it was unusual for candidates for the Town Council to raise funds beyond $1,000 for their elections.
“In my experience, the town races hardly ever file over the threshold,” he said after reviewing the last three mayoral race filings. “Just because they sign under [the threshold on filing day] doesn’t mean they can’t change their mind.”
Tallent said Scott reported spending $0 in each of his last two campaigns, in 2017 and 2015, both of which he ran unopposed.
Scott said from his office Tuesday he does not need to fund raise, rather he plans to rely on his 17 years of experience in municipal government and strong rapport with those he serves.
“I’m not going to ask people for money,” said Scott, explaining that he was going to run on “what I have done and my reputation and my kinship to this community.”
Relationships and winning
Scott declined to speculate on his chances this election, but said his opposition to “the mound,” referring to the town’s deeding of the town-owned Nikwasi Mound to the nonprofit Nikwasi Initiative, cost him some support.
“You can’t look at it as whether you are popular or not, you have to look at it as to whether you are effective,” the mayor said. Scott underscored that relationships matter more than campaign spending.
McRae, for her part, said she would step down from her officer position as co-chair of the Nikwasi Initiative if she wins the mayoral seat on Nov. 5.
Both candidates said they will be holding a form of listening sessions to discuss the issues with town voters.
“If I have any fund raisers, they’ll be ‘friend raisers,’ where we’ll just get together,” said Scott, describing functions where he doesn’t ask for money, but discusses the issues with voters.
Likewise, McRae plans an informal kickoff to her campaign with a block party and listening session near her Harrison Avenue residence Sept. 8.
“I really want to get everybody interested in politics, local politics, children too, and people who may or may not usually vote,” said McRae, who expects the expenses not to exceed that of some watermelons and lemonade. McRae hopes to replicate the block party model in other neighborhoods if it proves successful.
The vice mayor also said she has been approached by friends outside of the town who want to help her win the election.
“They’re hoping I’ll win, and they want to help me,” she said. “This is sort of a way of voting, showing their support, that they’re interested in town politics.”
McRae plans to write letters to a select number of supporters who might be interested in financially supporting her campaign.
Scott said winning elections is not about fundraising but rather leadership effectiveness.
“You can be popular all day long and not get anything done,” said Scott about the tough decisions he has had to make in three terms as mayor. “You have to step on some toes once in a while, and it may cost me, it may cost me dearly, but so be it.”