Candidate Fugit raises most money in fire district race

Wednesday, April 2, 2008 | 9:31 p.m. CDT; updated 4:46 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — Phyllis Fugit has raised more than twice as much money as her nearest opponent for the two seats on the Boone County Fire Protection District board of directors.

Her campaign finance report submitted this week lists 27 donations of $100 or more. Fugit, chairwoman of the Democratic Central Committee and veteran political campaigner, has raised $6,121.07.

Mike McMillen, former Shelter Insurance lobbyist, has raised the second most with $2,685.

John Sam Williamson has raised $1,955.

Mickey Nichols and Mike Becker, the other two candidates, were not required to file reports with the Missouri Ethics Commission because they haven’t accepted money from others, they said.

Despite her financial lead, Fugit has only raised half of what the winning candidate from the 2006 election raised.

In 2006, Shelly Dometrorch, a current board member, raised and spent $12,875.50 in a year when questions about fire district administrators’ salaries and spending were being raised at almost every fire board meeting. Her opponent, Don Farris, spent $9,718 on his losing campaign.

The list of Fugit’s donors contains some notable names in state and local Democratic politics, including:

• Ken Jacob, former state senator and current state auditor, who is currently running for the 9th District seat of the U.S. House of Representatives, $300.

• Former Columbia mayor Mary Anne McCollum, $100.

• Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman, $100.

• Boone County Sheriff Dwayne Carey, $100.

• Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight, $100.

• Don Stamper, developer and executive director of Central Missouri Development Council, $100.

• Bernie Lensmeyer, president of the Fire District’s Perseverance Endowment Fund and husband of Boone County Collector Pat Lensmeyer, $100.

“I have known all of those people for a lot of years,” Fugit said. “I have worked on a lot of their campaigns.”

Fugit has spent less than $1,000 so far. She said she plans to spend the remaining $5,000 on direct mailings and advertising. About $1,300 will pay for the advertising in the Columbia Missourian and the Columbia Daily Tribune this week. She said if there is any money remaining she plans to pay Michael Richards, a political consultant who has volunteered for her campaign to design her signs, fliers and newspaper ads.

McMillen is running his campaign out of unofficial headquarters at Perche Creek Cafe. McMillen had a chili supper fundraiser at the cafe on March 18, which raised $930 of his total reported campaign income of $2,685.

He listed all 15 contributions he has received in his campaign.

“I believe this process should be completely transparent,” McMillen said.

His contributions include the $1,000 McMillen personally added to his campaign, down to the $20 mailed to him by John Gordon, current fire district board chairman.

“Any candidate who sent me a solicitation for campaign funds, I sent them a $20 check,” Gordon said. “Only Mike McMillen and John Sam Williamson solicited funds.”

McMillen has spent $2,089 on his campaign so far. That includes advertising in the Centralia Fireside Guard and the Northern Boone County Bull’s Eye, direct mailing, and a 4-by-8 sign mounted on a trailer that McMillen moves to a new location every few days.

“I’ve done everything I could with the money I’ve got,” he said.

Candidate Williamson, a farmer, raised $1,955 and spent $1,671 on his campaign so far. He bought 250 yard signs, 25 baseball caps, two Wednesday ads in the Fireside Guard and two Sunday ads in the Tribune.

He did not list any of his donors.

“It is my understanding you are required to list only people who donate over $100,” Williamson said. “No one gave $101, all were $100 or less.”

Williamson did not name any donors who gave exactly $100 when asked because “they have not given me permission to do that, and I am not required to, so I’d rather not.”

Candidates Nichols and Becker have taken a different approach.

Nichols, owner of Mickey’s Auto Parts in Hallsville, has spent an estimated $800 to $900 of his own money on yard signs and has refused any donations.

“Some people have offered to contribute to my campaign, but I have refused to take donations from people,” Nichols said. “I asked them to spread the word rather than let them give me money.”

Becker, a former UPS union steward, is also taking a low-budget approach.

“I haven’t spent any money, but I’ve been making a lot of phone calls,” he said. “I hope I have done all I can to get the right attention. I hope the voters are really watching this election closely because it is going to affect them for years to come.” The candidates for the Boone County Fire Protection District board of directors were required to report to the Missouri Ethics Commission eight days before the election exactly how much money has been donated to the campaign and how much has been spent.

The penalties for not filing the report by the deadline are $100 per day until the election, then $10 per day after the election. Nichols and Becker did not file a report by the deadline but will not be penalized because neither exceeded the minimum requirements obligating them to file. If the campaign does not raise more than $1,000 or have any single donor give more than $325, then the candidate is not required to file a finance report.

Nichols said he intended to file the report but forgot it was due.

“This is my first time doing this kind of thing, and the rules are pretty screwy to me,” Nichols said.

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