Newspaper publisher Ben Hasan led the May 20 election and out-raised second-place finisher Bob Finnegan in the latest campaign financial reports due Tuesday, with significant support from a law enforcement political action committee.
But the tables could turn as local power brokers throw their money behind Finnegan in the July 22 District 6 runoff, which could shift the color balance on the 10-member Augusta Commission.
Hasan, who raised $4,825 since the May 20 five-way race, had $7,891.52 on hand last week to spend on the runoff, including $550 and two $750 contributions from the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, an organization that endorsed him and whose CSRA chapter represents Augusta-area law enforcement.
Hasan said he’s “strong pro-law enforcement” and hates to see Richmond County Sheriff’s deputies complete “the best training system in the state of Georgia” then leave for better compensation elsewhere.
Hasan’s runoff war chest also includes more recent donations from Lewis Blanchard, a lieutenant for Sheriff Richard Roundtree and nephew of Commissioner Grady Smith, whom the PBA also endorsed; Paine College Vice President Brandon Brown; commissioner-elect Sammie Sias; and Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick, according to the report.
Hasan has used his funds largely on radio ads and fish frys, the report said, and is spending his days working the doorsteps of neighborhoods such as his own Pepperidge, where he was campaigning Tuesday.
Finnegan, a U.S. Army and Fort Gordon retiree, largely self-funded his campaign up to the May 20 election, but more recently has seen financial support build from a number of Augusta power brokers, including Smith, the commissioner; Mayor Deke Copenhaver in-laws Braye and Clay Boardman; retired banker Monty Osteen; realtor E.G. Meybohm; former commissioner Ulmer Bridges, Keith Brown of Kendrick Paint and Body; and the Homebuilders Association of Metro Augusta.
It’s much of the same group that propelled Copenhaver and later former commissioner Matt Aitken to local political runoff victories, although Aitken lost his bid for a second term.
If elected, Finnegan will maintain the 5-5 color balance of white and black on the commission. District 6 is also the seat that caused the most disagreement during redistricting in 2012. In the end a federal judge drew District 6 as 54 percent black, the narrowest color margin among the 10 commission districts.
Finnegan raised some $8,294 since May 20 and has spent heavily on television ads. He ended last week with $5,465.59 on hand.
“People started approaching me after the election,” Finnegan said Tuesday. “It just kind of snowballed from there ... I’m happy to have the support.”
Early voting is ongoing this week at the Augusta Municipal Building for voters who live in District 6, which spans parts of southeast Augusta. It continues next week at four locations and all polls will be open July 22.