Politicos know that a bulging campaign war chest doesn't guarantee victory. (Paging Roy Barnes ) Next to incumbency, however, it's usually the best indicator of which candidate has the edge.
And by all known rules of thumb, Commissioner Burrell Ellis looks to be running away with the runoff race to become the county's next CEO. For starters, before the end of June, Ellis raised $421,000 more than all four of his opponents put together.
We didn't have a chance to compare his contributions with those of the runner-up, state Rep. Stan Watson mainly because Watson was several days late in filing his report. But now that we have both sets, we see that Ellis has all the earmarks of a sure thing.
In the three-month reporting period before the July 15 primary, Watson raised $104,000, a figure competitive with Ellis' $161,500 over the same period. But Watson emerged from the primary a solid 20 points behind Ellis and with only $17,500 in ready cash. Ellis, by contrast, hit the ground running with $74,000 in cash on hand and his donor list includes several movers and shakers, such as Metro Atlanta Chamber President Sam Williams; well-connected developer Carl Powell of the Integral Group; former Commissioner Gale Waldorff; attorneys with some of the city's top law firms; and several local PACs. Watson's largest donations seemed to come from restaurants and nightclubs, presumably because Ellis had backed a failed proposal to restrict bar hours.
Ellis also managed to nab donations from CH2M Hill, the municipal management firm contracted to run the new cities of Sandy Springs, Milton and Johns Creek; and from as far away as Arizona, Michigan and Nebraska.
Perhaps most interestingly, Ellis received $1,300 from Mel Sembler, the Bush-backing Florida developer who wants to build a mammoth shopping center at the intersection of Briarcliff and North Druid Hill roads. His son, Brent Sembler, gave a similar amount. (Those donations should put to rest at least some of the conspiracy theories about Vernon Jones being a GOP stooge that erupted after the Semblers gave generously to Mr. CEO's senate campaign. Sorry, John.)
Anyway, Ellis' story doesn't stop there. Last Friday, he filed a supplementary report showing that he had pulled in an additional $20,000 not counting another $10,000 that he loaned his campaign in early July.
The only real bright spot for Watson is that he stands to pick up many of the South DeKalb voters who supported Ann Kimbrough, Jones' chief of staff. It's even conceivable that Jones, an Ellis foe, could publicly endorse Watson. But even if he keeps all his own supporters and converts all of Kimbrough's, Watson would still fall short of Ellis' commanding lead unless he manages to win over a majority of leftover voters.
That seems like the tallest of orders.
(Photo courtesy Burrell Ellis)
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