Walker spending also trips FEC law
Candidate: Own polling shows he, Shaner lead race
By Mike Joseph --Centre Daily Times - email@example.com
Congressional candidate Derek Walker joined the Millionaires’ Amendment club Tuesday and said his own polling shows he and rival Matt Shaner are tied as front-runners for the Republican nomination.
Other Republican candidates said the poll results Walker described reflect name recognition built up by Shaner, Walker and Lycoming County businessman Jeff Stroehmann through TV commercials and other early-campaign spending.
Walker, 32, grandson and son of Clearfield County coal industry entrepreneurs, said his polling showed Stroehmann a distant third in the 5th District congressional race, with 7 percent, and the remaining candidates with less support than that. Stroehmann called those numbers “ridiculous.”
The Millionaires’ Amendment refers to a federal campaign law provision that requires congressional candidates to tell the Federal Election Commission and their opponents when they spend more than $350,000 of their own money.
Tripping the threshold allows opposing candidates to accept contributions from individuals up to $6,900, three times the typical limit, as a way to help level the playing field.
Walker told the FEC on Tuesday that he spent $365,000 of his own money in four expenditures between March 7 and April 7. Walker said he had to spend his own money to stay competitive with the more than $1.2 million that Shaner has spent of his own personal funds.
“When you have a candidate spending more money than any other race in the country, you’re kind of forced to,” Walker said.
Shaner, 28, son of Shaner Group CEO Lance Shaner, said in an e-mailed statement that he’s been informing voters of his stance on issues while Walker “continues to run his negative campaign” in the final two weeks.
“I think it is ironic and misleading that Mr. Walker would spend over a month criticizing me for spending my own money in an effort to inform the voters of my position on important issues while he fully intended to also trigger the Millionaires’ Amendment,” Shaner said.
Walker said a private poll of 5th District voters conducted March 31 and April 1 showed he and Shaner were each favored by 20 percent of the voters, almost three times more support than any other candidate.
“It’s a two-way race,” Walker said.
Former Centre County Commissioner Chris Exarchos, 63, said candidates who have to depend on contributions did not get to spend early in the campaign or in great amounts.
“We haven’t had the opportunity to get our mailings out — we’ve got two weeks to go and people are starting to pay attention,” Exarchos said. “Those three people that you mentioned are the ones that are spending beaucoup bucks. Right now, it seems to me that it’s a direct correlation between money and ratings.”
Stroehmann, 42, said Walker was “manipulative” in stating poll results that showed Stroehmann third. The great-great-grandson of the founder of Stroehmann Bakeries refused to disclose his own spending or say what his own polling may have shown. He called the Walker statement “hilarious.”
Stroehmann said three factors compel the purchase of TV commercials: the short notice (Jan. 3) that the seat would be open; the district’s vast size (11,000 square miles); and the high number (nine) of Republican rivals in the race.
“The only option we have if we want to win this is to get our message out. Unfortunately it costs money,” Stroehmann said. “I’m going to be able to say that I’m going up against a guy that put up $1.2 million. That’s going to be a vote of confidence.”
Howard Township health care professional Glenn Thompson, 48, said he’s not surprised that Walker, Shaner and Stroehmann have pulled ahead at this point “given the tremendous amount of money that they’ve put into their campaigns.”
“I’m a little surprised that they’re only at 20 points,” Thompson said. “The reality is that the election is not today — it’s April 22.”
Clarion Mayor John Stroup, 50, said the Walker poll numbers didn’t surprise him either. “When it comes down to the people, they haven’t decided yet,” he said. “It’s going to change in the next week or so.”
Clarion pastor Keith Richardson said the candidates who came from wealthy families and inherited money are entitled to spend it as they please.
“They have spent it on this race to buy name recognition and create an image for themselves,” Richardson said. “But I’m still hopeful that the voters on April 22 will vote for substance over form and will take a deep look at the qualifications of all the candidates rather than allow any candidate to buy a seat in Congress.”
Walker said his campaign finance disclosure will show that he has raised more than $150,000 from more than 500 individual contributors. He said the $365,000 of his own money came from earnings from his work as a financial consultant with 420 clients and $25 million under management.
Mike Joseph can be reached at 235-3910. Thanks to Mike Joseph and Centre Daily Times for allowing us to republish this article on the 5th congressional race.