City DopeMay 2024 ElectionNews

Follow the Money: Who Gave What to Which Commission Candidate?

Credit: John Guccione

Three candidates—Jason Jacobs, Stephanie Johnson and Carol Myers—have vastly outraised their opponents in Athens-Clarke County Commission races this spring.

Johnson, who is running for the District 6 seat being vacated by Jesse Houle, reported raising $23,850 and spending $11,450 during the period from Feb.1–Apr. 30, according to documents filed with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission earlier this month. The other candidate, Rashe Malcolm, reported raising $3,250 and spending $2,802. 

Johnson’s donors include Black leaders like physicians Diane Dunston, a Watkinsville resident and former chief medical officer at the Athens Neighborhood Health Center, and Cshanyse Allen, founder of the Inner East Athens Neighborhood Association. They also include Republicans like Kevin Epps, the Oconee County lawyer who is suing District Attorney Gonzalez, and Steve Middlebrooks, a car dealer who co-founded the Athens Classic group that backs moderate and conservative candidates. She also received $200 from Richie Knight, a 2018 mayoral candidate who, as Flagpole uncovered during the campaign, was not paying his marketing firm’s employees and may have violated campaign finance law. Knight was arrested the following year on felony check fraud charges. He is now a consultant in Fresno, CA.

Johnson has also gotten a boost from a political action committee called Athens for All that has ties to Republicans. In its initial filings, Athens for All shared a chair, treasurer and P.O. Box with another PAC, Neighbors for a Better Community, that spent more than $61,000 in 2022 on behalf of commission candidates John Culpepper, Dexter Fisher and Asia Thomas. Athens for All’s filing indicated it has not raised or spent any money, but the group’s name is listed on at least two mailers supporting Johnson. Under state law PACs are not required to file campaign finance disclosures until they hit the $25,000 mark.

Malcolm’s donors include business owner Isaiah Ellison, former District 7 commission candidate Carl Blount, former DA candidate Brian Patterson and former Federation of Neighborhoods president Wendy Moore.

Contributors to Jacobs’ campaign include Commissioner Mike Hamby, former commissioner Sharyn Dickerson, former commission candidate Danielle Benson, commercial real estate broker Grant Whitworth and Republican activist John Marsh. Jacobs reported raising $22,175 and spending $7,641.

District 2 incumbent Melissa Link reported raising $6,714 and spending $4,086. Fellow progressive commissioners Houle and Carol Myers were among those who gave to Link’s campaign.

National publicity from Fox News did not translate into fundraising success for District 8 candidate Sidney Waters, who raised $3,980 and spent $2,921. Athens GOP Chair Gordon Rhoden and his wife, Joan; local Republican activist Michael McLendon, former commissioner Tom Chasteen, former school board president Charles Worthy, Atlanta political pundit Bill Crane and Loco’s Grill & Pub founder Jamey Loftin contributed to Waters’ campaign.

Myers, the incumbent, reported raising $16,263 and spending $5,338. She counted Houle, former mayor Heidi Davison, R.E.M. lawyer Bertis Downs, Linnentown author and activist Hattie Thomas Whitehead, UGA professor Janet Frick and retired judge David Sweat among her supporters.