— Limestone Sheriff Mike Blakely is outpacing other sheriff candidates in contributions for the 2014 election.
Blakely, the incumbent sheriff, is running unopposed in the June 3 Democratic primary election. His three Republican challengers will face off in the June 3 Republican primary with the winner facing Blakely in the Nov. 2 general election.
Records show Blakely raised $58,075 in cash and in-kind contributions in 2013, though he had to return $4,650 of that after discovering the start date for collecting donations was later than he thought.
“We jumped the gun,” Blakely said. “We had a little barbecue supper in February last year and, for some reason, the law had been changed and it wound up that we had to return some donations.”
According to the state’s Fair Campaign Practices Act — a document that generates many questions from candidates — a campaign can raise or receive funds only for a period of 12 months prior to an election. The restriction does not, however, apply to a loan from a candidate to his or her own campaign committee.
The first election date for sheriff is the June 3 primary election this year, so candidates could not receive donations from others before June 3, 2013.
Blakely said that when he and his campaign staff — which includes Chairman Dan Totten and Treasurer Thomas Watkins — noticed the error, they contacted the state Attorney General’s Office for advice.
“The attorney general told us to send the money back with a letter explaining that the money was raised too early, so that is what we did, “ Blakely said. “We mistakenly started too early and, once we realized this, we immediately returned the money.”
His balance at the end of February, the most recent reporting date, shows he has $44,587. His spending included the usual car magnets and other promotional items plus a $2,879 fee to the Limestone County Democratic Executive Committee. Candidates typically pay a qualifying fee to the party, based on a percentage of the sheriff salary.
The three other candidates in the race, all Republicans, have nowhere near the war chest Blakely has amassed. All of the candidates are spending their money on ads, yard signs, displays for public events and other campaign expenses.