Campaign donors from Henderson County helped Mark Meadows become the new congressman from the 11th District.
Vote totals in the first primary, runoff and general election showed clearly that Meadows rode strong support from Henderson County to win the redrawn seat and put it back in the Republican column after Heath Shuler held it for three years. A review by the Hendersonville Lightning of the 2012 campaign donations for the two candidates showed that Henderson County residents also supported the Republican with their checkbooks.
Overall, Meadows raised $1,082,333, including a personal loan of $255,000, and spent $1,065,088 to win the seat, according to his Federal Election Commission campaign report. His Democratic opponent, Hayden Rogers, raised $746,455 and spent $698,407. Meadows reported 45.3 percent of his total from itemized individual donations, compared with 57.2 percent in that category for Rogers. Meadows had repaid $6,000 of the $255,000 loan, and ended the reporting cycle with $17,244 cash on hand.
The FEC data did not include information about donors who gave less than $200; the campaign finance rules do not require candidates to provide personal information on smaller donors.
From a Main Street jeweler to well-known business and industry leaders to lesser known investors and retirees, people in Hendersonville, Flat Rock and other communities gave to Meadows in a big way. His lead over Rogers in the financial sweepstakes in the greater Hendersonville area was bigger by miles than his 63-37 percent margin in the Nov. 6 election.
"The people of Henderson County have been very generous and supportive not just in campaign donations but with their time and effort," Meadows said. "I've probably had more volunteer time from Henderson County than any of the 17 counties in the district."
He will start fundraising for the next cycle at some point but said repaying his loan is not the highest priority.
"Really what we want to do is make sure we raise money not so much to pay me back but to make sure we're prepared for the next election against any Democratic opponent we may have," he said. "My investment was like many people's investment. They invest in the future of the country."
Rogers, Shuler's chief of staff for six years, had only eight donors from the area and just three from Henderson County; he had four from Pisgah Forest.
Meadows attracted 116 contributors who made 170 donations totaling $114,250. Some wrote checks for smaller amounts and others for the maximum allowable donation of $2,500 per election (a primary, runoff and general election each counts as a separate election).
J.H. Reaben Oil Co. president Hall Waddell, for instance, was an early supporter, donating $1,000 on March 19 and making five more donations through Sept. 5 for a total of $4,500.
Big donors included Charles Taylor, the wealthy tree farmer and banker who held the seat from 1990 until Shuler ousted him in 2006. Taylor and his wife, Betty, each gave $5,000 on June 29 between Meadows' primary win, when he led the field of eight candidates, and his runoff win in July over Vance Patterson.
Jeff Miller was an early supporter. Miller was the 11th District nominee in 2010, the year before the new Republican majority in the Legislature redrew the seat as a probable GOP pickup. Miller donated $4,000 left over from his congressional campaign on New Year's Eve of 2011.
State Rep. Chuck McGrady donated $250. Two Henderson County commissioners contributed. Michael Edney gave $500 and Grady Hawkins donated $550. Transylvania County Commissioner Jason Chappell gave $100.
The reports showed close ties with state Sen. Tom Apodaca, a key state Senate leader. Apodaca raised $414,000 in the 2012 campaign against weak opposition from a Tea Party candidate. The senator donated $1,000 from his Senate campaign and wrote a personal check for $2,000 and ended up getting it back. Meadows rented his campaign office on King Street from Apodaca's Sierra Investments. The candidate paid the landlord $11,003, the records show, although about a third of that was itemized in the FEC report as utilities.
The senator's son, Tate, worked as a campaign aide for Meadows, making $650 a week, and is now a constituent service staffer based in Hendersonville. The Meadows campaign paid him $19,802 from February through October, the records show.
"Tate is going to be working on casework and constituent outreach, and I know for example yesterday morning he was actually at an event representing me in Buncombe County at 7:30 in the morning," Meadows said.
The Meadows campaign also paid $2,100 to the candidate's daughter, Haley, and $6,270 to his son, Blake, on Aug. 13, the FEC records showed.
"My son worked all summer and my daughter did as well," the congressman said. "They figured it out that they got paid about $2 an hour. Actually my daughter is volunteering for us in a non-paid position (in Washington), taking a semester off from college."
Meadows said he has not set up a formal campaign finance committee for the 2013-14 cycle and is concentrating instead on hiring senior staff and forming an advisory group of 100 to 150 people on issues from farming to health care to industry. He hired Kenny West, a candidate for the 11th District seat in 2010 and 2012, as his chief of staff.
Meadows plans to announce his communications director this week and will hold an open house at the district office, on the ground floor of the Grove Street Courthouse, the last week of this month.
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