Despite all the buzz about the importance of this year's Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board race, campaign finance reports indicate a big ho-hum from donors.
The 16 people seeking three at-large seats in November were supposed to file a mid-year report on donations and spending by July 29. The reports on file with the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections show Elyse Dashew leading the pack with almost $12,000 raised (her biggest donations are from out-of-state family members).
Update 4 p.m.: Aaron Pomis's report shows him with almost $10,000. But as an alert caller suggested, those numbers were actually money that he raised and spent in his 2009 district campaign. Pomis says the Board of Elections instructed him to repeat those numbers; he's now trying to figure out if he got bad advice, and if so, correct his report.
Beyond that, nobody reports more than $1,000 coming in, and some haven't updated their reporting since the early months of the year.
Granted, campaign energy tends to crank up about now. But consider the contrast: This time in 2009, first-time candidate Eric Davis (now board chair) had filed a 57-page report detailing almost $28,000 in contributions. He ended up raising and spending $58,000 to win the seat representing the compact District 5 in south/central Charlotte.
The current pack have to make their names and views known throughout this sprawling county. With all three incumbents stepping aside, there was talk early in the year that this would be a big-spending race, with newcomers having a real shot at leadership in public education.
So, what's up? Is the lingering recession squelching big donations, or will they just land later in the year? Are candidates focusing more on social networking and public forums? If the landscape of school-board campaigns has shifted, who will win and lose? Will CMS employees or any other interest group turn out in numbers large enough to tip what's usually a low-turnout off-year race?
I guess we'll find out this fall.