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County commissioner candidate fundraising: Democrat Kirk deViere far ahead, Venus de la Cruz leads Republicans

Commissioners’ Vice Chair Toni Stewart may be fined for missing deadline to report donations and spending


Editor’s note: This article has been revised with an additional comment from Venus de la Cruz to more accurately describe how she is deciding whether to actively campaign.

Cumberland County Commissioners Vice Chair Toni Stewart, who is running for reelection, missed the deadline to file her year-end campaign finance report with the Board of Elections, the county elections office said.

The latest campaign finance reports detail how much money the candidates have raised and spent on their campaigns through Dec. 31, and who their donors are. The reports were supposed to be submitted to the Board of Elections by Jan. 26. Stewart’s was filed on Tuesday, Feb. 6.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Kirk deViere dominated in fundraising among the 12 candidates vying for Dist. 2, the filings show. As of Dec. 31, deViere had raised more than $10,000.

Republican candidate Venus de la Cruz, who announced in January she would not campaign, came in second place overall in the cash race, and was in the lead in the Republican field with $1,400 donated by her husband. She said on Wednesday she was considering getting back into the race.

Decades ago, a California politician said, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” Candidates need money to buy campaign signs, mailers and other advertising, pay staff and overhead expenses, and otherwise get their name and message in front of the voters.

Four Democrats and eight Republicans are on the ballot for the Dist. 2 election to the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners.

In the March 5 primary, mail-in balloting is underway, and in-person early voting starts Feb. 15. In this multi-member district, the three Republicans and three Democrats who win the primary will advance to run against one another in the Nov. 5 general election. Then the top three vote-getters will take office in December.

Democrats: Late report from Vice Chair Toni Stewart

First-term County Commissioner Stewart filed her campaign finance report on Tuesday — seven business days late — after CityView contacted her on Monday to ask about it. Her campaign could be fined $50 per business day that the document was late, up to a maximum of $500, the state Board of Elections office says. A seven-day filing delay would be $350.

“I just messed up, I just messed up,” Stewart said on Monday when CityView contacted her to ask her why the county elections office did not yet have her report.

Stewart said she had been busy in January with her mother, who has health issues and lives with her. “I just got caught up doing stuff, and then forgot,” she said. She said she would turn in her report on Tuesday, which campaign finance documents showed she did.

According to the documents and the elections office:

  • DeViere, a former state senator, raised $10,310, and spent $580, leaving him with $9,730 at the start of this year. His top donor was home builder Wells Alderman of Fayetteville. Alderman put in $3,500.
  • Stewart reported she had not yet received donations. She started the cycle with $1,636. Stewart said she spent $252 of that — this is the cost to file for the election. That left her with $1,384.
  • Karla Icaza reported raising and spending $252, the filing fee.
  • Ronald Pittman does not plan to raise or spend more than $1,000, so he is exempt from filing a report, county Elections Director Angie Amaro said.

Republicans: Venus de la Cruz was No. 1 among GOP

With $1,400 collected in December, GOP candidate de la Cruz as of Dec. 31 was the top fundraiser among the eight Republicans on the March ballot.

“I’m the top fundraiser? How?” she said in a phone call with CityView on Wednesday.

De la Cruz said in January she would not be campaigning, but on Wednesday told CityView she might get back in the race.

“For me, I’m still waiting on the Lord,” she said, on whether she would compete in the primary.  “What I’m looking for is peace in my soul that this is what my Lord would have me to do.”

In the meantime, Venus de la Cruz is making public appearances ahead of the race, she said, and has set up a campaign website. Her husband, Freddie de la Cruz is strongly encouraging her and he said he will campaign for her in the primary. (Freddie de la Cruz is the Republican candidate for state House Dist. 44.)

The eight candidates’ financials as of Dec. 31:

  • Venus De la Cruz raised $1,400 — all from her husband. Venus de la Cruz spent $502, with $252 for the filing fee and $250 for digital advertising.
  • Pavan Patel reported he had not yet raised money, that he spent $252 on the filing fee, and that his campaign owes $8,025 to The Mox Collective, a marketing company in Fayetteville.
  • Peter Pappas said he raised $100 and had not spent any money.
  • Henry Tyson reported $185 in donations and no spending.
  • Jonathan C. Strange, who previously ran for District Court Judge, brought $448 into his county commission race from that campaign. After paying for his website, he had $398 left. His campaign also says it made and expended an “in-kind” donation (services instead of cash) to itself. 
  • Vernon Spruill listed no donations or spending.
  • Ron Ross and Jeremy Stanley have both told the Board of Elections they do not plan to raise or spend more than $1,000, so they do not have to file campaign finance reports.

Senior reporter Paul Woolverton can be reached at 910-261-4710 and pwoolverton@cityviewnc.com.

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elections, cumberland county commissioners, campaign finance