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Area residents donate to push their candidate to the top

POSTED: January 13, 2010 12:59 a.m.

In 2009, Hall County proved to be one of the state’s greatest campaign contributors.

With more than $815,000 in contributions to candidates for political office, Hall County’s 2009 campaign contributions rank fifth in the state, following only Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb, Chatham and Gwinnett counties, according to the State Ethics Commission.

And nearly a quarter of the donations Hall County shored up last year went to support the campaign of hometown gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal.

Deal, currently representing the state’s 9th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, has spent the past seven months raising money to become the Republican nominee for governor.

By the end of 2009, Deal’s efforts garnered $1.84 million for his campaign, including $250,000 he loaned the campaign earlier in the year. Of the contributions he itemized on the most recent report he filed with the State Ethics Commission - those that were above $101 - more than one-third were from Hall County’s residents and businesses, who collectively donated almost $189,000 to Deal for Governor.

The origin of $49,814 more in contributions to Deal’s campaign cannot be determined because those donations are under $101 and not required to be itemized under state ethics laws.

“Nathan has always said that it’s impossible to go out and present yourself to other parts of the state without first having the strong support of those who know you best,” said Deal campaign spokesman Harris Blackwood. “... As I’ve said many times before, Hall County loves its congressman and wants him to be governor.”

And though Butch Miller, who is seeking Lee Hawkins’ soon-to-be-vacant state Senate seat, has reached out to fellow automobile dealers as far south as Valdosta and Statesboro, Miller has mainly received his support from Hall County.

The seat Miller seeks, Senate District 49, represents all of Hall and the north end of Jackson County.

Aside from a $120,000 loan to his campaign, Miller reportedly raised $45,030.87 in cash donations by Dec. 31, according to the report he filed with the SEC. Of that, 68 percent was cash donations from Hall County businesses and residents.

And it may be Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle whose campaign has relied the least on the support of his current hometown. By the end of the year, Cagle had raised $1.48 million in his campaign for re-election.

Less than $100,000 of those donations came from Hall County. Instead, most of Cagle’s largest contributions came from metro Atlanta, the Macon area, Tampa, Fla., and Savannah.

While candidates like Miller only need the support of one or two counties, Cagle and gubernatorial candidates such as Deal need the support of the whole state.

Now, the task for the Deal campaign is to reach out further for support.

Trevor Southerland, a spokesman for Democrat David Poythress’ gubernatorial campaign, boasted on Dec. 30 that the Poythress campaign has received donations from people in all 159 of Georgia’s counties.

And Blackwood said Deal is almost there - but not yet. The Deal campaign has support from 100 counties, many of which are the state’s largest.

“Our travels have taken us all over the state,” Blackwood said. “And that’s part of our strategy is to reach out to new people everywhere, and that’s been a very successful effort.”



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