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Oliver has most cash in race for chairman
Chairman, sheriff candidates report campaign contributions
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Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Oliver posted his first contributions of his re-election campaign last quarter, raising $12,600.

Of the candidates seeking to lead the Hall County Commission next term, Oliver had the most cash on hand, reporting some $24,946 of campaign funds left in his account at the end of June.

But it was his opponent Richard “Dick” Mecum who raised the most money last quarter. Mecum, a former sheriff, reported $19,705 in contributions over the last three months, including another $3,300 he gave to his campaign.

Candidates seeking election to state and local offices this year were required to report contributions from the months of April through June by midnight Monday to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

The report is the last showing of candidates’ financial cards before the July 31 primary.

Oliver’s campaign, which he announced in April, had the help of a $25,000 loan from the candidate last quarter.

And several of Oliver’s itemized donations came from outside of the county, including at least three $250 contributions from men closely tied to a project to build an 850-acre reservoir in North Hall, Joe Tanner and Harold Reheis.

When questioned about the outside donations, Oliver said he did not solicit them. He also pointed to some $1,600 in donations that came in at $100 or below.

“These are people that believe in the work that the chairman’s doing,” Oliver said. “Nobody that contributes to me believes they will improve themselves financially by me leading the county.”

Oliver also said he has not held any campaign fundraisers since announcing his bid for re-election.

“I have yet to ask for a single check,” Oliver said.

Mecum, who has been running for the post since November, told The Times he had one fundraiser last quarter but said he had two planned this week to help carry his campaign through the election.

Mecum reported having $3,643 left to spend on his campaign at the end of June. He said he needed more.

“I’ll just keep (the fundraisers) coming and keep them going almost to the last day,” Mecum said. “I’m not looking for the big money, particularly. I’m looking for that $100 or less.”

Mecum’s report largely includes support from smaller donors; he had some $3,860 in contributions that were below the $100 threshold last quarter.

A number of other donors gave the candidate less than $250.

Mecum said the lower contributions were likely due to the economy and the sheer number of candidates seeking money in a packed primary season.

“I appreciate the smaller donor,” Mecum said, noting that he’d had donations of $20 and $30. “You realize it’s the best that they can do, and that kind of support is, in a way, humbling.”

Mecum’s larger donors include former Hall County Commissioner Jimmy Echols, who gave $500, and owner of AAA Bonding C.V. Smith, who donated $2,200.

His largest contribution, other than a $2,500 contribution he made to the campaign, came from friend Lonnie Pope, the owner of Global Manufacturing in Gainesville, who gave $2,500.

Other major donations to Mecum’s campaign came from investor Wendell Starke, whose development firm seeks to build a high-rise hotel and office buildings on the edge of Gainesville’s midtown, and Robert Swoszowski, owner of local McDonald’s franchises.

Both men gave Mecum $1,000 each.

Steve Gailey, who is also seeking election as chairman, had not filed a report by Tuesday.


Sheriff’s race fundraising

After the primary, the two most successful of the candidates seeking to succeed Steve Cronic as Hall County’s sheriff likely will need money to carry them through another month of campaigning for an August runoff.

Cronic is stepping away from the office at the end of the year after three consecutive terms leading the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.

Five Republicans are campaigning to be his successor.

Of them, Jeff Strickland’s campaign account is most poised for a runoff.

Strickland, the former chief deputy of the sheriff’s office, has been campaigning since April 2011. At the end of last month, he still had $21,239.17 left in his campaign account.

The amount is more than triple the balances of his closest fundraising opponents.

And Strickland, who raised $15,863 for his campaign last quarter, also topped his opponents in fundraising over the last three months.

In the same time frame, Gerald Couch took in $8,700 in contributions.

Couch retired from the sheriff’s office after some 30 years and spent about eight months as the second in command at the Gainesville Police Department before quitting to run for sheriff.

Not far on his fundraising heels last quarter was Jon P. Strickland, who raised more than three times the amount last quarter than he did in the three months before.

Jon P. Strickland, a retiree from the Georgia State Patrol, raised $8,250 between the beginning of April and July.

His account, which has seen a total of $30,774 in donations, was pennies shy of $2,960 on hand at the end of last month.

Chuck Hewett, the former head of security at the Hall County Jail, still had $3,686 on hand at the end of June; he raised $800 last quarter, according to reports.

And John Sisk, after spending some $14,815, was nearly $120 in the red by the end of June; the veteran of the Hall and Gainesville law enforcement agencies has a campaign that has largely been self-funded.

Couch, on the other hand, had a little more than $7,000 left at the end of the month to carry him through the election.

Couch, whose campaign has had the help of a $20,000 loan, has also gotten a total of $25,838.80 from donors since he entered the race in late January.

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