Most funds for mayor campaigns come from donors outside of Athens

            It takes money to make money. In this case it takes money to run for mayor of Athens.  But where exactly does the money come from?

            The five hopefuls who have officially announced their candidacy for mayor of Athens are Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Nancy Denson, Athens Area Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Spencer Frye, retired state labor official and pastor Charlie Maddox, and students Glenn Stegall and Brandon Shinholser.

            Thus far, the candidates have raised a combined $72, 084; however, figures from recent reports show two clear leaders emerging: Denson and Frye.

            Denson currently leads the money race, with a total of $29, 552. She credits this large amount to donations of all sizes from members of the community.  But they are not the only ones supporting Denson.

            Quite a few of her contributors in this past quarter are not local at all. Documents from that last quarter reveal that five of the donors are from a state other than Georgia and that another seven are from cities other than Athens.

            This is only out of 30 contributors, and ends up being less than half. The percentage does not seem very significant, but the financial impact is. These 12 donors contributed to over half of Denson’s full amount for the past quarter.

            Their donations reached a sum of $10,107, which is 53 percent of the total amount collected from Jan. 1 to March 31 of this year, $19,070. The two largest single contributions came from two people who do not live in Georgia. Both donated $2,400 to support Denson in her campaign.

            Why are individuals in Cedar Hill, Texas and Waymart, Pa. contributing to a campaign for mayor of Athens? Ga.?

            They could be individuals who have residences in both Athens and their respective other towns. They could also be extremely interested and active in the politics of Athens, Ga., but that does not seem very realistic.

            Most likely they are friends and family members of Denson and are contributing to support her in her campaign, and there is nothing wrong with that right?

            Well except for the fact that Denson was quoted in the Athens Banner Herald saying, “I feel like I’m getting extremely good support from the community, some I haven’t expected.” Denson is right that she is getting extremely good support, only recently most of it’s coming from members outside of the community.

            Using numbers from the past quarter, on average a contributor from Athens gave Denson approximately $498, a contributor from a city other than Athens gave about $571, and a contributor from a state other than Georgia gave on average a $1,200.

            The above calculations do not take into account the amount of wealth or the economic status of the other cities and states. Yet, it definitely says something when a mayoral candidate is getting more than half of her most recent contributions from places other than the very community in which she is running in.

            But this is not only happening in Denson’s campaign. Frye, who collected the second most this past quarter with a total of $10,883, has had many contributors from people outside of the Athens area as well.

            Documents show that of Frye’s 30 recent contributors, 12 are from cities other than Athens and another three are from states other than Georgia. While he raised a little over half of the amount that Denson raised, well over half of his contributions came from individuals with addresses outside of Athens.

            Sixty-eight percent of Frye’s contributions came from donors who do not reside in Athens. According to numbers from the most recent quarter, on average donors in Athens gave $264, donors in other cities gave $533.33 and donors in other states gave $487.50. These amounts are less than amounts from Denson’s various donors, but the 68 percent of total contributions cannot be ignored.

            Like Denson, Frye’s largest single contribution was $2,400 and came from a recording studio in Atlanta. Which again, poses the question of why a recording studio in Atlanta would care about a mayoral election in Athens?

            Denson and Frye came in well ahead of their competitors this quarter for total amount of contributions, but through their use of outside contributions are they setting a pace that is unfair to their competitors? Furthermore, what does it say, when the support they receive from outside areas exceeds the support each has from the place they hope to lead one day and call home?

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