Sign of the times

If you’ve driven around the county in the last few weeks, you can’t miss the political signs in yards and on street corners.

Local candidates have spent anywhere from $200 to more than $7,000 to get their name out to voters, a price they say is well worth it.

The top local spenders this year are running for a lesser-known office: county surveyor. The three candidates have raised and spent a combined total of nearly $12,000 to tell voters who they are and why they should win the nomination.

Of course, what local candidates have raised and spent is significantly less than those running for state and national offices.

In the race for the District 65 state representative seat, candidates have spent as much as $20,000 each, according to their campaign finance reports filed with the state. And in a race for State Senate District 36, four candidates have spent more than $35,000 total. Much of that money has gone to fundraisers, advertisements and printing signs.

For local candidates, signs are the top expense for political campaigns.

Surveyor candidate Paul Maurer spent $2,500 on signs, about $2,500 in advertising and about $1,000 on door-to-door campaigning, including passing out name cards and other items with his name on it, Maurer said.

“This was all about getting our name out there. And we didn’t really have a strategy for that beyond signs,” Maurer said. “This is my first time in politics and advice from other people that have been involved was all about putting our name out there. We didn’t expect to spend almost $3,000 on signs, but I guess it all just adds up.”

Maurer’s roughly $7,700 price tag was he and his wife’s own money, Maurer said.

One of his opponents, Nate Annis, decided against spending money on his primary campaign efforts because he didn’t want to invest in something that wasn’t a sure thing, Annis said.

Instead, Annis made a point to shake hands and introduce himself in public, reminding residents about the primary election and what he was running for. If he wins the nomination, Annis will look into a campaign budget for the general election, he said.

J. Gregory Cantwell received about $2,000 in contributions, and funded the other $2,500 of his campaign himself. Signs were the biggest chunk of his budget, but Cantwell felt like he got his money’s worth, he said. Cantwell and his supporters took his work trucks and placed signs in the back of them, driving them throughout the county. And that way, Cantwell was sure people at least saw his company information and logo on his trucks, he said.

“Even if I lose, I’m a winner. I’ve come in contact with more people in the last 60 days than I have the previous six years and those who saw my campaign signs on my truck also saw my business,” Cantwell said.

Another contested local race this year is for county treasurer.

For incumbent Diane Edwards, the price tag for her primary campaign was about $1,100. Her opponent Michele Ann Graves spent about $5,000, money that she and her husband paid themselves.

Many incumbents have traditionally spent less because they can reuse signs, Johnson County Clerk Susie Misiniec said.

Graves spent about $2,500 on signs. For Graves, hearing people recognize her name from the signs along the road is an indication it isn’t money wasted, Graves said.

“I bought as many signs as I could afford,” Graves said. “I’ve gone out in public to every meet and greet I can. I won’t know until May 3 whether it’s paid off, but when people say ‘I saw your sign’ it’s a good indication.”

In order to have a campaign that reaches voters with advertising and signs, candidates should expect to spend about $3,000, Misiniec said.

But money doesn’t always translate to victory on Election Day, Misiniec said.

“I know of previous candidates who spent thousands and were not elected. Spending big money for a campaign doesn’t always pay off,” Misiniec said.

“One thing I’ve always remembered is signs don’t vote. A lot of it is how hard you work and how bad you want it.”

By the numbers

A look at the amount of money candidates raised and spent toward their campaigns:


State Sen. District 36

Sean Gorman;$70.86;$70.86

Jesse Kharbanda;$20,871;$16,587

Jack Sandlin;$34,547;$19,472

Jefferson Shreve;not available

State Rep. District 65

Franklin Andrew;$17,155;$4,218

Darren Byrd;$9,763;$9,574

Jacob Franklin;not available

Mark Mathis;not available

Christopher D. May;not available

Jim Pfaff;not available

State Rep. District 47

Matt Prine;$20,264;$12,208

John Young: $800;$750

County council

David W. Bleke;$2,035;$2,035

John Mallers;$5,286.47;$5,286.47

Josh McCarty;$1.850;$1,309.64

Brian L. Moore;none;none

Chris Mull;$260;$536.49

John E. Myers;$300;$279.40

Joshua R. Turner;$2,432.65;$1,521

County treasurer

Diane Edwards;$1,592;$1,192

Michele Ann Graves;$5,100;$4,633.72

County commissioner

Brian P. Baird;$3,250;$2,250

Daniel J. Chupp;none;none

Ron West;$200;$200

County Surveyor

Nathanial Annis;none;none

J. Gregory Cantwell;$2,010;$4,500

Paul K. Maurer;$7,736.89;$7,736.89

Author photo
Corey Elliot is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2719.