About your money ...
Updated: Mar 20
I'm grateful for more than 40,000 donations to my congressional campaign that totaled nearly $2,300,000. I made a pledge from the start that I would not take any money from my campaign, and neither would members of my family. I wanted it to be clear that I was running to try and make a positive difference for folks here in Western North Carolina, not a positive difference for my own financial situation. When I drove around the district during the campaign, I didn’t just pump my own gas, I paid for it out of my own pocket.
I also refused to accept corporate PAC money. I wanted it to be clear that I was running to represent the people who live here, and I was not going to be beholden to outside special interests who expect a return on their investment when they invest in candidates for public office.
When all was said and done and the final bills were paid, I had money remaining in my campaign account. Since that money came from tens of thousands of individual donors, I wanted to let them know where their money went. I’m pleased to report that we were able to distribute over $77,000 to 23 organizations and 6 candidates. I ran to try and make a positive difference and I distributed the money left in the campaign account with that same objective in mind. Below is information about the organizations and the candidates I chose for donations ... click on the titles in bold for more information about each one. I hope you will check them out and continue to support them.
The largest donation I made was $25,000 to MANNA FoodBank. MANNA has done fantastic work for many years addressing food insecurity in Western North Carolina and their efforts have never been more important than during the COVID crisis when so many in our area need a hand.
I had the chance to visit several food pantries during the campaign and participate in preparing food boxes for distribution in local communities to those in need of food assistance. In every case, the bulk of the food distributed across Western North Carolina came from MANNA. CEO Hannah Randall, the dedicated MANNA staff, and the scores of selfless MANNA volunteers are a godsend to our area. I want to say a big thank you to MacKenzie Scott (of Amazon) for her $9,000,000 donation to MANNA. Her generosity will help MANNA build a new, larger facility and enable them to continue serving this region for many years to come.
SebastianStrong Foundation — My campaign treasurer, Jim McAllister, put SebastianStrong on my radar. Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death among children, yet only four percent of the National Cancer Center’s budget is allocated for childhood cancer research. SebastianStrong is named after Sebastian Ortiz who lost his 14-month battle with cancer at the age of 16. Since 2017, SebastianStrong has awarded more than $1,500,000 in grants for cutting edge childhood cancer research and to help families facing hardships due to childhood cancer.
American Muckrakers (aka “Fire Madison“ dot-com) — Since Madison Cawthorn took office in January 2021, many have discovered that what I said during the campaign was true … he’s a horrible human being who’s armed, angry and ignorant. To help facilitate removing the seditious, habitual lying, sexual predator from office as soon as possible, we created a PAC to make sure Cawthorn's persistent pattern of misconduct doesn’t go unnoticed. Among the criminal conduct we have helped to uncover and report so far is Cawthorn’s attempt to carry a gun onboard a commercial aircraft at the Asheville Airport and packing a tactical, spring-loaded knife at school board meetings and on school property in violation of state law. The 14th Amendment says insurrectionists are ineligible to serve in Congress. Madison Cawthorn is bad for Western North Carolina and bad for the future of our nation ... Madison has got to go.
As the son of a 100 percent disabled Veteran of World War II and as a disabled Veteran myself, Veterans are a high priority for me. I had hoped to serve on the House Veterans Affairs Committee to make sure the nation keeps its commitment to its Veterans.
In that spirit, I chose three Veterans related groups for donations. Veterans Restoration Quarters in Asheville provides housing, food and counseling for Veterans experiencing homelessness and they have a fantastic record (a remarkable 80 percent success rate) for moving Vets from homelessness into living wage jobs and permanent housing. Equinox Ranch in Cullowhee provides an in-residence program in the beautiful mountains of Jackson County for Veterans coping with combat trauma. Their motto is "Helping Warriors Heal" and I was pleased to help them. Blue Ridge Honor Flight takes groups of World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War Veterans to Washington to experience the memorials honoring their service and sacrifice. Many Vets didn't get a warm welcome home when their service ended. Let's help make it clear to them now that we're truly grateful to them.
During the campaign, I had the opportunity to visit different parts of the district and to see good things going on in local communities. I chose three special places for donations where I was made to feel welcome and where partisan politics never entered the picture. The Marshall Depot is a labor of love for folks like Mr. Forrest Jarrett and Ms. Pat Franklin. It's a place where it doesn't matter if you're on the right or the left, young or old, so long as you enjoy good live bluegrass and country music.
I appreciate them letting me take the stage for a half-hour set and I'm thankful for the fabulous musicians who joined me and compensated for my lack of musical talent. Unaka is a small town in Cherokee County whose motto is "A great place to live in Western North Carolina." The Unaka Community Center is the heart and soul of the community. I got to visit the community center where I helped about two dozen local folks unload the MANNA FoodBank truck, prepare boxes of food, and assist in distributing the boxes to those who might otherwise have gone hungry. Never once did I hear anyone ask, "are you a Democrat or a Republican?" It was neighbor helping neighbor ... and with good hearts. The folks in Unaka demonstrated what "Mountain Strong!" means. I visited the Dr. John Wilson Community Garden in Black Mountain where Diana McCall and over 100 local gardeners grow healthy food for themselves and their community.
It's an impressive effort and one that should be replicated far and wide. Click on the title for a video of Diana explaining the vision Dr. Wilson had when he started the garden in 1997 when he was well into his eighties and how it has grown into what it is today.
There's been a lot of hateful rhetoric from elected officials like Madison Cawthorn and Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson about the LGBTQ community, gender identity, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity. I will continue to speak out against their hate and bigotry, and I chose five groups for donations who work for equality, inclusion, and opportunity for all every day. LGBTQ+ Democrats of Buncombe County work to secure equal rights for LGBTQ citizens and to promote LGBTQ participation in the political process. I'm grateful for their support during my campaign. Not far away, Hendersonville Pride aims to promote unity, visibility, self-esteem and a positive image of the LGBTQIA+ community. I'm grateful for their support as well. Growing up is challenging and made even more so when bigots like Lieutenant Governor Robinson say you're "filth." Youth OUTright of WNC supports LGBTQIA+ youth to be confident, resilient and compassionate community members and they envision a world where youth of all genders and sexual identities are empowered to reach their full potential. The mission of OpenDoors of Asheville is to strengthen the community by eliminating race-based opportunity and achievement gaps for area youth through education. A 2019 report showed that African-American students in Asheville face the fifth largest achievement gap in the nation. Click on the title to learn more about how the folks at OpenDoors are working to close the gap. Finally, the Blue Ridge Organizing Project is a diverse interdenominational faith-based community organization working to improve the quality of life in Western North Carolina. During COVID, they provided food, rental assistance, help with basic utility and medical bills, and met other emergency needs of unemployed or underemployed Latinx people in Buncombe, Yancey, Mitchell, Madison and Henderson counties.
I know how fortunate I am to live in the mountains of Western North Carolina where the wildlife and natural beauty are unmatched. I chose three organizations who are working to protect and preserve what we enjoy today for future generations. Asheville Greenworks is dedicated to keeping the local area "Clean & Green." Their efforts include cleaning up rivers and roads, enhancing the environment for bees, reducing waste, and preserving the tree canopy ... we have several trees in our yard that we got at Greenwork's tree giveaways. Appalachian Wildlife Refuge ... where my wife Lisa is a volunteer ... cares for injured and orphaned wildlife, supports the wildlife rehabilitation network, and offers conservation education to the community. Because of them, I have a newfound respect for opossums.
The North Carolina Sierra Club PAC supports candidates who are committed to environmental protection. I'm grateful to them for supporting my campaign, particularly the Sierra Club members who stood at polling sites handing out flyers for me and other progressive candidates.
COVID has created unique challenges around the world, across the nation and right here in Western North Carolina. It certainly made trying to campaign for elected office while not putting public health and safety at risk especially challenging. I chose two organizations for donations who are addressing specific issues exacerbated by the pandemic. Pisgah Legal Services has provided legal help to those in need in the mountain region for more than 40 years. The demand for their help grew as the pandemic increased concerns about evictions, domestic violence, child support, poverty and other issues, and PLS's fabulous staff and dedicated volunteers stepped up and delivered. The pandemic also put an increased focus on mental health as businesses shut down, folks were out of work, kids were out of school, families were separated, and we all worried as the disease and the death toll spread. For 40 years, the National Alliance on Mental Illness has helped to educate, advocate, listen and lead to improve the lives of people with mental illness and their loved ones.
During the period when I was disbursing the funds remaining in my campaign account, two unexpected events happened and created urgent needs: Flooding in Haywood County due to Tropical Storm Fred and the evacuation of Afghan refugees to the United States. Flooding in August hit Haywood County particularly hard and claimed a number of lives and washed away the homes and worldly possessions of many residents. I was pleased to donate to Mountain Projects, an organization that has worked to improve the social, economic, educational, health, emotional and environmental aspects of Haywood and Jackson counties since 1965. Their prompt emergency assistance was invaluable to those impacted by this catastrophic flood. Thousands of Afghans stood by our troops and supported us for nearly 20 years. In August, as U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan, thousands of our Afghan allies and their families evacuated to the United States. These folks stood by our troops, and now we have an obligation to stand by them. I donated to the Afghan refugee assistance programs run by Catholic Charities and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. They were among the first groups to step up on a national level to help Afghan refugees as they began to arrive in the United States. Some Afghan refugees are resettling here in Western North Carolina. I donated to Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte whose western region office is helping Afghan refugees here in the Asheville area.
I donated to six candidates who reflect the values I believe in. I'm pleased to report that already two of those candidates won their elections in November 2021 and are in office.
Preston Blakely, a 27-year-old African-American, was elected Mayor of Fletcher, a town of about 8,500 located a few miles south of Asheville in Henderson County. Preston's election is particularly noteworthy given that the Census Bureau reports that whites account for nearly 90 percent of the town's population. Jim McAllister -- who was my campaign treasurer -- won his race for a seat on the Woodfin Board of Commissioners and he was named vice mayor. Woodfin is a town of about 7,000 that abuts Asheville's north side. Jim and two other progressive candidates beat entrenched incumbents and bring much needed energy and fresh thinking as Woodfin grapples with growth and development.
North Carolina has the opportunity to elect its first African-American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate. Cheri Beasley was elected to serve on the North Carolina Supreme Court in 2014, and she was appointed Chief Justice by Governor Roy Cooper in 2019, making her the only African-American woman to ever hold that position. She lost her bid for re-election in 2020 by just 401 votes out of the nearly 5,400,000 votes cast. Cheri is running to replace Senator Richard Burr who chose not to run for re-election. Cheri doesn't have to win Western North Carolina to win the Senate seat in 2022, but a little effort here in the mountain region to reduce the GOP margin could be the key to putting another Democrat in the U.S. Senate.
I donated to three candidates in the Asheville area who are on the ballot in November 2022. Quentin Miller is the first African-American elected Sheriff in Buncombe County and he is up for re-election. Quentin faces a "constitutional sheriff" candidate in the primary and likely another one in the general election. I'm grateful to Sheriff Miller for his support in my 2020 congressional campaign. Likewise, I'm grateful to Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams for his support in 2020. As a former prosecutor, I appreciate the difficult decisions that have to be made to ensure justice is applied fairly and consistently. I've seen Todd make those kinds of decisions and I know that he's the right person for the job and needs to be re-elected. Finally, Matt Kern was running to be Buncombe County Commissioner for the district where I live. Several months after he took the money, he decided not to run.
So, now you know where the money went. There are many more worthy causes and candidates that deserve support, but the resources were finite, and I wanted each donation to be enough to actually help ... every donation I made was $1,000 or more. Let me say again how grateful I am for all of the support I received. While I wish I had won, 2020 is behind us and we need to focus on elections that are at least equally as important in 2022 and 2024. Let's keep working to make wherever we live even better.