With Election Day 33 days away, in the Kinston mayor race the incumbent has a huge advantage — at least when it comes to campaign contributions.
Mayor B.J. Murphy has outraised and outspent his two competitors — Ralph Clark and John Marks — looking to unseat him by considerable margins.
In a 35-business day reporting period from July 29 to Sept. 24, Murphy received $12,083.56, including $9,698.56 in contributions from individuals. He spent $10,089.71 during that timeframe.
In comparison, Clark received $4,570.58 and spent $2,881.15. Marks’ numbers are not known, but it’s because he hadn’t filed his receipts and expenditures with the Board of Elections. BOE supervisor Barbara Hammonds said Marks has received and spent significantly less than the other two candidates.
“If the candidate doesn’t go over $1,000 whether it comes to expenditures or contributions, they don’t have to make a report,” Board of Elections Supervisor Barbara Hammonds said.
Murphy felt the amount of money he’s received over his campaign has been a reflection of the citizens of Kinston agreeing with what he stands for in the upcoming election.
“What seems very clear over the number of donations and the amount is that my message of continuing policies putting Kinston in right direction for growth is catching on with the voters,” Murphy said. “We have a campaign centered on engaging the community, having frank discussions on issues and promoting growth on development. All of those points are resonating with the city of Kinston.”
Murphy, in his third mayoral campaign (he won in 2009 after losing in 2005), said his significant Internet presence has also played a role in receiving contributions. As of Wednesday, the incumbent had 4,993 friends on Facebook, 1,244 likes on his “Mayor B.J. Murphy” Facebook page and 978 Twitter followers.
Neither Clark nor Marks had a Twitter account as of Wednesday afternoon. Marks has 341 friends on Facebook and Clark has 126 likes on his “Ralph Clark for Mayor” Facebook page.
Murphy believes social networks are a great outlet to reaching the public.
“To the average person in community, whether they’re struggling to get by or have had moderate success in business, they seem to be connecting with my message of keeping Kinston on right track and continuing the leadership we currently have at City Hall,” Murphy said.
Clark said he hadn’t been focused on the amount of money being spent by his opponents, with his focus strictly on the race.
“We all have different ways of trying to reach the voting public,” Clark said. “I’m not sure if money spent always gives an advantage.”
Clark, a former Kinston City Manager, recently created a Facebook page, but said he has spent much more time interacting with people offline to make a name in the community.
“I’ve had to attend a lot of events and personal handshaking, so people can connect a face to the name,” Clark said. “The mayor started a long time ago with his Facebook pages and he uses technology well. I just opened a Facebook when I filed for mayor and have had it for three months, while he started networking with it five years ago. I’m just trying to make up ground with personal appearances.”
Clark believes the city is listening to what he has to say and giving a warm reception.
“The public has received me and my message very well,” Clark said. “I’m not making any promises other than to work hard. I always tell people, my first line of business is to get the city council to work with my agenda, because if they won’t, it’s hard to make things happen. I also tell them I do have experience and ideas I can bring to the table to make Kinston a better place to live.”
Marks hasn’t spent or received nearly as much as the other candidates, but said he has been doing his part to make himself better known in Kinston.
“I’ve been doing a little footwork, putting signs out and talking to people in the community concerning nonpartisan voting,” Marks said. “I tell them to vote with their heart, and hopefully, they’ll vote for me. I’ve been passing out flyers, getting people to do early voting and have people in place to help spread the word.”
Marks said he may not have a huge social following either, but believes his friends on Facebook will help get his message across.
“Out of that 300, they might have 1,000 or 2,000 friends that will let them know about me as well,” Marks said.
Board of Elections Director Dana King said she thinks the mayoral race will be very interesting.
“Having three mayoral candidates is kind of big, especially when there are only nine precincts in Kinston who can vote for them,” King said.
Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.