Bucks went to Republicans, who gained seats
Republicans dominated North Carolina political fundraising for the 2012 campaign on the way to expanding their majorities in the General Assembly and getting candidates for governor and lieutenant governor elected for the first time since the 1980s.
Gov. Pat McCrory's campaign committee raised $12.3 million since early 2009 compared to $4.3 million by Democratic rival Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton's committee, according to year-end campaign finance reports filed with the State Board of Elections. McCrory's spending advantage was only slightly less lopsided.
The state Republican Party also reported outraising the state Democratic Party by a nearly 2-to-1 margin over the past two years and outspending it too — $9.3 million to $4.7 million through Dec. 31, the reports said.
The GOP's monetary margins were skewed in part by Dalton jumping into the race late when Gov. Beverly Perdue announced she wouldn't seek a second term. McCrory, who narrowly lost to Perdue in 2008, benefited from high name recognition and faced no significant primary opposition. McCrory beat Dalton by 11 percentage points in November.
President Barack Obama's campaign also spent money outside the party mechanism for his re-election bid, which benefited down-the-ballot Democratic candidates. But the cash-raising advantage is still quite a turnaround from 2008, when Democrats held the cards on political money and power in North Carolina as they racked up electoral victories. Republicans won control of the House and Senate after the 2010 elections for the first time in 140 years.
Former Gov. Jim Martin, the last Republican governor elected before McCrory in 1988, credits the former Charlotte mayor and other Republican leaders with reversing the tide.
"Pat personally worked on that, as did others, and rebuilt the enthusiasm and the confidence and the work ethic of the Republican ranks and his organization," Martin said at the inauguration for McCrory, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and eight other Council of State members on Saturday. "And look where we are today."
State Democratic Party spokesman Clay Pittman said the GOP's money advantage was not surprising given that donations tilt toward candidates leading close to Election Day. He added the party will prepare a new fundraising plan "that will lead to a blue North Carolina next year," topped by the re-election of U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.
The Pat McCrory Committee reported $1.2 million in the bank to start 2013 — seed money for a potential 2016 re-election bid or to help other candidates. Political committees had to file reports covering from Oct. 20 through Dec. 31 by late last week.
House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, and Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, each reported raising about $1.7 million over the past two years and giving about $1.25 million apiece to other candidates or political committees.
They are following the pattern of previous Democratic legislative leaders who raised money to give to their party, which in turn can spend or give unlimited amounts to candidates in tough races. Otherwise, the legislators would be limited to giving $4,000 per election.
Republicans expanded their House majority by nine seats and Senate control by two additional seats. The committee of first-term Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, received $635,000 from the state GOP, reports said.
Among Democratic legislative leaders, the committee of Senate Minority Whip Josh Stein, D-Wake, raised $425,500 during the two-year cycle, while Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, raised $292,000, according to finance reports. House Minority Whip Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, reported raising $240,000.
The race for a state Supreme Court seat attracted outside money from partisan groups and corporations seeking to influence what was officially a nonpartisan race between incumbent Associate Justice Paul Newby and Court of Appeals Judge Sam Ervin IV. Newby narrowly won a new eight-year term, keeping a 4-3 advantage for the GOP on the state's highest court advantage based on voter registration.
Justice for All NC, an independent expenditure group backing Newby, raised $1.7 million during the campaign and sent nearly $1.5 million of it to another "super PAC" called the North Carolina Judicial Coalition, the campaign report said. The coalition ran ads building up Newby's name recognition.
Justice for All NC, which ran its own 11th-hour ad criticizing Ervin, reported receiving $1.2 million from the Republican State Leadership Committee, a Washington-based group interested in redistricting.
The state Supreme Court recently said that Newby can participate in considering litigation challenging how district boundaries were drawn. Groups suing wanted Newby to withdraw from the case in because of political donations by the committee.
North Carolina Citizens for Protecting Our Schools, funded in part by the National Education Association and the state's trial lawyer lobbying group, spent more than $263,000 backing Ervin's candidacy, reports said.