Curtis Coleman to stay in GOP gubernatorial primary

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 173 views 

Contrary to the murmurs of political insiders on both sides of the aisle, Republican businessman Curtis Coleman said Tuesday (July 30) he is not leaving the governor's race. But that does not mean his campaign won't undergo a change.

Addressing rumors about his impending switch to the race for lieutenant governor, Coleman said the only change coming to his campaign involves staffing and consulting changes.

"We have a lot of volunteer positions, and we have the same number of staff," he said. "But our campaign manager, Dr. Shane Knight, has moved out of his position for us,” Coleman told The City Wire.

According to Coleman, the move is not a "negative event."

"He is still a passionate supporter of our campaign and we're still good friends, but it's a strategic move to help him. He'll have to announce that himself in the coming weeks. But we supported his move."

With Knight leaving the campaign, Coleman said he is interviewing potential replacements, though he said he did not want to rush the hiring decision.

"I don't feel like we have to be in a big hurry. I just want to get the right person."

Republican consultant Clint Reed, a partner at Little Rock-based Impact Management Group, said finding a campaign manager and keeping the individual in place would be imperative as the campaign moves on.

"Organization continuity is a must in any campaign, whether primary or general. Your donors have to feel confident that the organization they are investing in is going to be fruitful in the future,” he explained.

He said volunteers and donors never want to see organizational confusion or inconsistency.

That said, even though Coleman's campaign is without a manager at this point, consulting firm FP1, the same Washington-based firm that managed the campaign of freshman U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is working with Coleman to keep the campaign moving forward to the May primary and could stay on board through a possible general election campaign in November of next year.

Coleman said Bristow, Va.-based JFT Consulting also is coming on board to help manage what he said has been an uptick in fundraising that began this month.

"We've seen a measurable uptick in our campaign contributions in July, which we didn't expect," he said. "July is considered the dog days of the campaign. So we feel our momentum growing."

The second quarter fundraising reports, which were largely considered a disappointment for Republican frontrunner Asa Hutchinson, a former member of Congress who unsuccessfully challenged current Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe in the 2006 election, are what Coleman thinks gave him the latest push through the month of July, though he declined to provide a specific amount of money raised.

"(Political observers) work on the assumption that a traditional candidate has to raise a lot of money early in the campaign to be considered viable," he said. "The flip side is that a non-traditional candidate, like me, has to prove viability to raise money. We've spent the first six months to build the organization. Now we're working on getting a war chest to make us competitive early next year."

The well-connected and politically experienced Hutchinson only raised $378,795 during second quarter, while Coleman raised $101,715, which he said proved his political muscle against the more well established candidate.

And while impressive for a political novice running for the state's top job, the fundraising total included a $25,000 personal loan that Coleman made to his campaign. But based on what he says are strong fundraising figures during the month of July, in addition to bringing in fundraising consultants, Coleman does not "anticipate needing to do that again."

"Yeah, what we're seeing, the trend in our fundraising would suggest that would be less necessary."

Reed said whether Coleman's claimed uptick in fundraising holds is still yet to be seen.

"One chapter of a book does not a book make, so you have to sustain that and we just don't know the answer to that yet. When you can piece one or two of those (fundraising reports) together, you're starting to get somewhere. You piece four or five of those together, you start to piece together something to win a statewide primary or general election campaign."

Regardless of what happens with fundraising, Coleman said he is staying in the race.

"I have no interest or intention of running for lieutenant governor," he said. "I think primaries are very healthy things and I think they give voters a needed exposure to the candidates and I think the absence of a primary robs voters of very valuable insight and information. I think primaries are great things. I think voters need them."

On the Democratic side, former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter dropped out of the race for governor yesterday (July 29) after only raising $92,900.19 during the same period compared to fellow Democrat Mike Ross' record-breaking fundraising haul of more than $1.97 million.

Political insiders have said Halter may enter either the second or fourth district Congressional races, though an e-mail yesterday announcing his exit from the race for governor left no clues as to his political future.