As statewide qualifying opens for the March 2016 primary election, only a handful of Baldwin County candidates have actually filed paperwork to run for district attorney, circuit and district judgeship and board of education races. But the four Baldwin candidates who have thrown their hats in the ring have collectively amassed nearly $140,000 in contributions since June.

As of Oct. 12, just three Baldwin County candidates had qualified, according to the Alabama Republican Party’s website. Former Judge Robert Wilters has qualified to run for district attorney; Judge J. Clark Stankoski is qualified to run for his current seat in Baldwin County’s District Court; and Matthew Brown has qualified to run for the state school board’s District 1 position.

Others, like current District Attorney Hallie Dixon and Circuit Court Judge Scott Taylor have not yet qualified, but Phillips said often candidates wait until later in the process to file paperwork.

“Usually the closer it gets to the filing deadline, we get more people trying to get in to qualify,” Phillips said. “So having just a few qualified candidates at this point is normal.”

Four local candidates have already started raising funds for the primary election, according to paperwork at the Baldwin County probate office and the Alabama Secretary of State’s office.

According to the filings, the candidates’ consulting and polling firm of choice is Fairhope-based Catalyst Associates LLC, which has received $28,750 for services from Wilters, Taylor and Stankoski since June. Catalyst Associates was formed Aug. 11, 2014, with Michael Scott Boone and Lynn Stacey listed as managers and Coley M. Boone as its registered agent.

Among the candidates, Wilters has built the largest war chest so far. Between June 9 and Sept. 30, the former judge collected $66,600 from 183 total contributors, including a $10,000 loan from himself. During the same period, he reported $32,364.54 in expenditures including $14,000 for polling and consulting from Catalyst Associates, $9,238.62 on advertising and $3,170 in charitable contributions.

Wilters’ charitable contributions included $630 for the Baldwin County Drug Court Foundation, $500 to the Optimist Club of Perdido Bay in Lillian, $500 to the Stockton Heritage Association and donations to several area high schools.
Wilters, who retired from the 28th Circuit in June, announced his candidacy this summer. Dixon has yet to publicly announce a re-election campaign and had not filed qualifying paperwork as of Oct. 12.

Circuit Court Judge Scott Taylor formally announced his re-election campaign over the summer as well, but had not filed qualification paperwork through the state GOP at press time. Between June 25 and Sept. 30 Taylor, who replaced Wilters on the circuit court, received $42,527.08 from 111 total contributors. Of that total, $39,575 are cash donations, $1,439 are in-kind donations and $1,500 are in the form of a loan.

Between July and September, Taylor’s campaign spent $1,775.07 on advertising, $11,417.28 to Robertsdale-based TMS LLC for media management and consulting as well as $6,000 to Catalyst Associates for consultancy and polling. The campaign has also made $775 in charitable contributions, including a $500 payment to the Jennifer Claire Moore Foundation in Foley.

Taylor’s replacement on the district court, J. Clark Stankoski, raised $28,200 for his re-election campaign between July and September. The campaign spent $2,634.90 for fundraising activities, including an Aug. 5 payment of $2,300 for an event at The Venue in Fairhope and a $1,050 expense to Daphne-based Joseph Brown & Associates. An additional $1,268.61 was spent on advertising. The Taylor campaign also paid a total of $8,750 for consulting and polling from Catalyst Associates.

Alabama State Board of Education District 1 representative Matthew Brown collected $2,018.42 from eight contributions in September. For reported expenses, Brown spent just $618.42 in September, with $368.42 in printing costs and $250 for polling and consultation through Birmingham-based Conservative Concepts LLC.

Qualifying for interested candidates opened Oct. 5 and closes Nov. 6 at 5 p.m. Baldwin County GOP Secretary John Stetzinger said candidates seeking school board seats for District 4 and 7 need to qualify through the local party. The contested school board seats are currently occupied by Norm Moore and Board President Shannon Cauley.

Baldwin GOP school board candidate paperwork must be sent to the party’s Foley office. Candidates must also submit financial documents and a filing fee equal to 2 percent of their annual salary to the Baldwin County Probate Office.
“We have had several inquiries for the school board election, but I can’t give any specifics unless they submit paperwork,” Stetzinger said of potential school board candidates.

A spokesperson from the Baldwin County Democrat Party said the party has not been contacted by any candidates interested in running for school board.
District attorney and judgeship candidates must qualify through the state party of their choice. Alabama Republican Party representative Reed Phillips said candidates must file paperwork and submit a filing fee of 2 percent of salary by 5 p.m. Nov. 6 to qualify.

Kant campaign opens with $41,251 haul
The county’s voters will also head to the polls Aug. 23, 2016, for municipal elections, for which candidates were allowed to begin fundraising activities this past August. According to state law, there is no limitation on the amount an individual or corporation may donate to a municipal office campaign, but candidates must file monthly disclosure reports in accordance with the Fair Campaign Practices Act.

Fairhope Mayor Tim Kant wasted little time getting started, raising $41,251 total and $4,565 of in-kind donations from 87 contributors in September, with no reported expenditures.

In 2016, the last day to qualify to run for municipal office is July 19 and the last day to register to vote in the municipal election is Aug. 10.