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Challengers seize edge in fundraising


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They were on equal footing at Friday's debate, but Brent Eaton (left) has a decided advantage over incumbent Michael Griffin in fundraising this spring. Eaton's coffers were aided by a $10,000 contribution from a local attorney.

(Tom Russo / Daily Reporter)
They were on equal footing at Friday's debate, but Brent Eaton (left) has a decided advantage over incumbent Michael Griffin in fundraising this spring. Eaton's coffers were aided by a $10,000 contribution from a local attorney. (Tom Russo / Daily Reporter)


GREENFIELD — The challengers in Hancock County’s two heated law enforcement races have raised more money than the incumbents this year, according to campaign financial reports filed Monday.

Brent Eaton, who is challenging incumbent Michael Griffin for prosecutor, benefited from a $10,000 donation from a local attorney and brought in almost $9,300 more than Griffin. Likewise, Donnie Munden, who is running against Sheriff Mike Shepherd, raised much more than the incumbent.

The reports reflect contributions from Jan. 1 to April 11. While challengers have brought in more contributions in the county’s two biggest races, incumbents have the advantage in races for county commissioners and county clerk.

Eaton, who is running for prosecutor for a third time, raised $30,293 and has $11,831 left on hand to spend in the final two weeks of the campaign.

Griffin, who is seeking a second term, raised $21,021 but has only $125 on hand.

Griffin had raised more than Eaton in 2013, making his total contributions higher than the Republican challenger over the course of the past 16 months.

In the race for sheriff, Munden has raised nearly twice as much as Shepherd, reflecting the same trend in 2013 when the challenger out-raised the incumbent.

While incumbents generally raise more money than challengers, those who have raised the most money this year are hesitant to put too much stock in the numbers.

“Obviously, we’re encouraged, but all this really does is make this easier to get our message out to people,” said Eaton.  “It’s our intention to campaign until Election Day, and we’ve been working very hard for a long time, and we will continue to work hard up to Election Day.”

Roughly a third of Eaton’s campaign contributions this year came from a single corporation. Finpro LLC, which is owned by local attorney Paul Overhauser, gave Eaton a $10,000 contribution. Eaton said no promises or favors were exchanged; Overhauser “just expressed that they’d want to see the prosecutors’ office go in a different direction.”

Overhauser couldn’t be reached for comment Monday, but Griffin is skeptical of the figure.

“Any local candidate who receives a contribution of that size is basically being bought,” Griffin said. “It just smells bad.”

Eaton’s parents, Benny and Brenda, were also top donors, with a total of $1,306, and they gave an additional $5,000 after the April 11 financial reporting period deadline. Other notable Republicans to contribute to Eaton’s campaign include former state Sen. Beverly Gard and longtime party official Tom Haines.

Most of Griffin’s campaign is self-funded. He has spent roughly $12,432 on his own campaign this year.

“I haven’t approached this campaign the same way,” Griffin said. “I haven’t held fundraising events. I’ve done mail solicitation, and that’s it, because I knew I had the resources to be able to fund the campaign. My goal has been from the start to focus on the voter, and not so much to ask for money.”

While the report reflects Griffin has only $125 on hand for the final weeks of the campaign, he said he is expecting more contributions to come.

Griffin has spent more on his campaign than Eaton, raising the possibility that the challenger will be able mount a late advertising blitz that will be difficult to counter. Griffin earlier spent $3,043 for advertising on Facebook, for example, compared to Eaton’s $158.

 Both candidates said they hope to get their message out to local voters as much as possible in the next two weeks.

“During the course of the campaign, we’ve had six or seven meet-and-greets around the county,” Eaton said. “We’ve been really aggressive in going out and meeting real people. That’s something I believe in – getting out there, shaking hands and hearing what people have to say.”

For sheriff candidate Munden, being in the lead financially is also a good sign of support from the community, but he doesn’t want to read too much into it.

 “I don’t want to get a false sense of security that, ‘Since I’ve raised more money, I’m going to win this,’” he said. “I wake up every morning thinking to myself, ‘I’m $10 behind.’”

Munden raised $17,913 since Jan. 1, compared to Shepherd’s $9,193. Munden also has more cash on hand for the rest of the campaign season, with $5,568 compared to Shepherd’s $3,148.

The numbers are similar to 2013, when Munden raised nearly twice as much as Shepherd. Notable contributors to Shepherd’s campaign include Commissioner Tom Stevens and city Councilman John Patton; Shepherd spent $4,500 of his own money on his campaign.

Munden has received funds from people in the local business community, but no listed elected officials this year. A lot of his contributions, Munden said, came in small amounts from several contributors; anything less than $100 does not have to be reported.

“I don’t want to draw anything from the fact that I’ve raised more money,” Munden said. “I’m going to keep plugging along, finish strong and hope for the best.”

Shepherd couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

In several other county races, Republican incumbents have raised more than their challengers.

Incumbent Hancock County Commissioner Derek Towle raised $23,045. Most of that came from the Hancock County Commissioners Political Action Committee, at $15,000. Challenger Marc Huber raised $6,604; Richard Walker, who is also running for the seat, did not file a report.

Hancock County Clerk Marcia Moore raised $5,637 in her bid for a second term, compared to challenger Patte Cole’s $3,198.

John Jessup raised $4,371 compared to Jeannine Gray’s $1,087 in the race for Hancock County Council District 1; Monty Zapf did not file a report.

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