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Recently released campaign finance statements show nearly $120,000 in contributions this election cycle helped fuel a costly race for Ingham County’s Board of Commissioners.
All told, at least $73,000 was spent on signs, mailings and other campaign-related expenses between the dozen candidates to submit the documentation.
And some races were more pricey than others, according to a Lansing City Pulse analysis.
The race for the east side of Lansing — represented by the county’s 10th District — proved to be the most expensive. Challengers Thomas Morgan and Robert Pena collectively spent nearly $14,000 amid an attempt to unseat incumbent County Commissioner Dennis Louney, who also spent more than $9,000 to defend his post.
That district is comprised of portions of East Lansing, Lansing and Lansing Township. Louney estimated efforts to tailor various campaign materials to the specific desires of residents within three separate municipalities could have helped account for the comparatively higher election-related costs among candidates in his district.
“I think everyone involved is trying to get their message out to the people,” Louney said. “Some are able to do that by raising more money. Others are trying to knock on a lot of doors. I think it shows that people want to be interested in county government and I feel we’ve got three, good candidates getting their messages out.”
Morgan said his contributions came from nearly 150 different people, without a single corporate donor.
“There’s a real energy here in Lansing that’s almost palpable,” Morgan added. “No longer will rich developers and corporate special interests run the show. Everyday people are taking charge of their local government.”
Candidates in the county’s 3rd District also spent nearly $23,000 but that amount was fueled almost entirely by Derrell Slaughter, who topped the list for the largest collected contributions and highest expenditures this election cycle. He spent nearly $15,000 on his campaign amid an effort to “leave no stone unturned."
“I’d say those costs were (spent) pretty much across the board,” Slaughter added. “I wouldn’t say it was for anything in particular. Campaigns are generally pretty expensive and we’ve raised a good amount of money.”
Other candidates like Pena and Emily Stivers took a more frugal approach to campaign fundraising. Stivers — who comparatively spent and raised one of the smallest amounts this election cycle — focused most on knocking on doors, a relatively inexpensive way to garner votes ahead of this month’s primary election.
“I raised exactly as much as I had intended to raise and have raised enough to cover the needs of my campaign,” Stivers added. “What’s important is the door-to-door and that’s where I’ve been investing my time and money.”
County Clerk Barb Byrum said three candidates — Vincent Dragonetti, Chris LaMarche and Jessica Hamel — needn’t file reports because they indicated they would raise and spend less than $1,000. Louney and Alexia Mansour were late to submit their financials and will be billed at least $25 for the one-day delay, reports state.
Finance reports further indicate Democratic candidates collectively garnered an ending balance of nearly $50,000 as they inch closer to the vote. Those unspent funds can remain with candidates’ respective election committees should they win their seats on the commission, otherwise the cash could dispersed elsewhere.
Byrum said election committees can only be dissolved once they deplete their remaining balances. Those leftover funds can only be funneled to a registered nonprofit or to a political action committee, as required by law.
Editor's Note: This story was corrected to accurately reflect Derrell Slaughter's campaign expenditures for this election cycle, as well as to fix an inadvertent spelling mistake.