The Hall County delegation
Campaign contributions raised from July to December 2011
- Butch Miller, Senate District 49: $35,040
- Emory Dunahoo, House District 25: $1,100 (amount raised since special election runoff on Dec. 6)
- Carl Rogers, House District 26: $24,849
- Doug Collins, House District 27: $2,000 (Collins' campaign contributions for the 9th U.S. House District are not due yet)
- Tommy Benton, House District 31: $18,996
As national attention is fixed on presidential primaries this winter, a lot of the focus turns to which candidates have the most funds to fuel their campaigns.
That's not the case right now for incumbent state legislators, who are banned from accepting contributions while the legislative session is in progress. Many legislators haven't even announced their intentions to seek re-election or even began facing challengers yet.
Still, with state lawmakers holding two-year terms and campaign costs often running in the hundreds of thousands, the pressure is always on to raise campaign contributions whenever they are allowed.
"It seems like you're always having to raise funds for campaigns," said former state Sen. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville. Hawkins announced in September plans to run for the state House District 27. That's the seat state Rep. Doug Collins is vacating as he runs for the 9th U.S. House District.
State legislators submitted their campaign contribution disclosure reports to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission earlier this month. Their reports detail how much money each campaign raised and who gave it to them.
According to those reports, most local delegates raised between $15,000 and $35,000 from Hall County residents and businesses, as well as statewide interest groups.
Those funds are still a small fraction of what it can cost to run a campaign — but also highlight the fundraising efforts legislators make throughout their terms to stay in office.
"It's a very costly process," said state Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville. Rogers, who plans to run again in 2012, estimates past elections have cost between $54,000 and $190,000.
"It's always on your mind that you need money to run a campaign right," Rogers said.
State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Flowery Branch, raised about $35,000 from July to December 2011. He said that despite the fundraising success, his campaign put relatively little effort into fundraising during those months.
"My focus at this juncture is serving the people of the 49th District in this current legislative session," he said.
Instead, the real frenzy for fundraising will begin after the state legislative session ends this spring and attention toward local elections heats up.
One candidate who doesn't have to wait to seek money is Hawkins. He can continue to raise campaign cash because he's not currently in office.
According to Hawkins' disclosure report, the candidate raised about $10,000 in late 2011.
So far, Hawkins does not have an opponent for the 2012 election, but he said a focused fundraising campaign will begin for his election bid in February and continue through the spring while the session is still under way.
Hawkins said much of the contributions goes toward advertising in local newspapers and radio.
"I want people to know who I am and recognize me," he said. "I think it's our responsibility to reach out to those we serve."