Candidates report donations, spending ahead of general election

HANCOCK COUNTY — A $2,500 contribution to a first-time candidate from a Washington, D.C., electrical worker’s political action committee is fueling one county school board race, campaign finance reports show.

Contributions to local candidates this election cycle totaled nearly $30,000, according to records filed with the county election office; but the donation school board candidate Jonathon Hooker received from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers PAC stands out among this year’s school board races, whose candidates are otherwise reporting few donations.

Hooker is a New Palestine resident vying for the Southern Hancock School Board District 2 seat.

State law requires any candidate who opens a committee for their campaign to report all contributions and where and how donors’ money is spent. The reports due to the county clerk by mid-October track candidates’ fundraising efforts since the conclusion of the primary election in April.

School board candidates are exempt from filing finance reports unless they raise or spend at least $500, and typically, that amount or less funds a local school board campaign.

Matthew Ackerman, who is seeking the District 1 seat on the Southern Hancock School Board, is on the only other county school board candidate (there are six running in three races) to report earnings in excess of $500. Ackerman gave $680 to his own campaign; he spent all that money on yard signs, reports state.

The donation to Hooker’s campaign was the second-largest made to a candidate’s committee during this reporting period, records show.

But Hooker said the $2,500 contribution to his race isn’t quite as glamorous as it appears.

Hooker, a first-time candidate looking to unseat two-term incumbent Bill Niemier, works in construction management and has been a member of the electrical workers organization for more than 15 years; he said he simply cashed in a promise from the committee to offer financial assistance to any member looking to give back to their communities by running for or holding public office.

Hooker received the $2,500 donation — the only contribution made to his campaign so far — on Oct. 10 and has spent $1,100 on yard signs to post around his New Palestine neighborhood.

Incumbent Republican Brad Armstrong, who is running unopposed for the Hancock County Commissioner District 3 race, reported the most contributions of the all the county’s races. Armstrong has raked in more than $11,000 since the end of the primary season and carried about $10,200 in contribution from before April. He’s spent some $19,400 on various advertisements in the six months since then, records show.

Republican Kent Fisk, who is one of five on the ballot for three at-large seats on the Hancock County Council, garnered a $5,500 donation from the political committee Towle for Commissioner — the committee that supported former-candidate Derek Towle, records show. Fisk’s donations totaled about $7,530; his expenditures were about $3,000, records show. His committee reported a debt of $43.

At-large county council candidate Democrat Rita Johnson received contributions totaling about $3,300. Her expenditures totaled about $2,700, and she reported no debts.

At-large county council candidate Republican Martha Vail reported a negative fund balance at the end of this reporting period. Vail received $1,275 in contributions since April; her expenditures totaled about $1,400, leaving Vail’s committee in the red $124 with more than $2,000 in debts. Vail said she planned to pay the difference to balance out her account once her campaign comes to a close.

Republican John Jessup, who seeking the seat representing District 1 on the commissioner’s board, reported contributions of $1,000 and expenditures of about $620.

David Stillinger, who is running unopposed for county coroner, reported contributions of $1,695 and expenditures of $1,680; he has debts of $730.

Janice Silvey, who is running unopposed for county treasurer, reported no contributions but carried about $250 over from her previous campaigns. She spent that same amount this reporting cycle and reported a debt of $1,800.

Hancock County Clerk Marcia Moore said letters were sent to candidates who established political committees but did not file reports in time of the Oct. 15 deadline. They include Brandon Perry, the Democratic candidate in the Hancock County Commissioner District 1 race, and Kathy Dowling, an uncontested candidate for the Greenfield Central School Board District 4 seat, Moore said.

Democrat Randy Jones, Republican Debbie Bledsoe and write-in candidate Zachary LaFavers, who are seeking an at-large seat on the county council, were not required to submit campaign finance reports because they have not filed paperwork to establish a political committee, officials said.

Author photo
Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or