Real estate execs pump cash into next month’s Charlotte elections

By: Scott Baughman//October 14, 2011//

Real estate execs pump cash into next month’s Charlotte elections

By: Scott Baughman//October 14, 2011//

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Charlotte-based Spangler Construction used to be in the commercial construction business. These days it’s known as a real estate investment company.

And in the upcoming Charlotte City Council and mayoral elections, Spangler’s known as the company whose employees have donated the most to candidates in the two races.

Spangler employees donated a total of $5,000 to next month’s City Council and mayoral races, according to September campaign finance reports.

Even though the real estate market continues to limp along, Spangler’s employees aren’t the only ones in the industry throwing money at the candidates.

A trip down the funding rabbit hole for the Nov. 8 general election shows that it leads to many other real estate and construction industry donors.

Among the candidates for City Council, incumbents Patrick Cannon and David Howard, both Democrats, and Edwin Peacock and Andy Dulin, both Republicans, have the most donations from employees of real estate or construction-related companies.

In the mayor’s race, Scott Stone’s donations from such industry officials outweigh incumbent Anthony Foxx’s.

North Carolina law prohibits companies from giving to political campaigns, but their employees and political action committees are permitted to donate up to $4,000 apiece to any or all campaigns in any election cycle.

The September campaign finance forms, which are the most recent ones filed, show the council and mayoral candidates were raking in thousands of dollars each from the real estate and construction fields.

Cannon received $7,450 from real estate and construction employees. Cannon’s chief donors: Peter Pappas, founder of Pappas Properties ($1,750), John Joyner, owner of John Joyner Realty ($1,500), and Allen Tate, owner of Allen Tate Realty ($700).

Howard raised $6,150 from real estate and construction sources. He received the most donations from Thomas Henson, owner of Henson Developments ($1,000), Pappas ($1,000) and Howard Bissell, senior vice president and director of The Bissell Cos. ($650).

In his re-election bid for a City Council at-large seat, Peacock received $4,300 in donations, chiefly from employees of construction companies. Brothers and Spangler Construction co-owners Stephen and William Cornwell each donated $1,000 to Peacock’s campaign, while Crosland Group employees John Crosland Jr., chairman emeritus; Timothy Sittema, investment services vice president; James Downs, retail division vice president; and Michael Wiggins, retail division senior vice president, combined donated $1,500 to Peacock. He also received $500 from Bissell Cos.’ Joe Hallow, president and chief operating officer of Bissell Hotels.

Even though Dulin is unopposed in his bid for re-election to the District 6 seat, he also received financing backing from real estate and construction employees. He raised $4,400 from such sources, with his main donors being D. Edwin Rose, president and CEO of Shelco Construction ($1,000); Henry Faison, founder of Faison Enterprises ($1,000); and Daniel Levine, owner of Levine Properties ($1,000).

Meanwhile, Foxx was lagging way behind Stone in fundraising from real estate and construction professionals. Stone raised $12,100 from real estate and construction industry sources, 24 times more than Foxx did.

According to September filings, Foxx had only one construction-related donor, Stephen Cornwell, who gave $500.

Foxx, however, is light years ahead of Stone in total fundraising. The mayor has collected $611,481 in this election cycle, six times more than Stone’s $100,190.

Some industry officials donated to multiple candidates and even to opponents in the same races.

Stephen Cornwell gave Foxx $500 and Stone $750. William Cornwell gave Stone $1,000.

Neither Cornwell would comment on the donations.

Stone’s other major real estate and construction related donors: Dan Millard, principal of Vantage Real Estate ($2,000), and Frank Blythe, co-founder of Blythe Development ($1,500).

Most real estate and construction company officials contacted for this story refused to comment on their donations – but not all.

Diane Rivers, managing partner at Charlotte-based Brackett Flagship Properties, gave Stone $500. Rivers said she hoped Stone would help with changing real estate laws and regulations in the city.

“I realize there has to be zoning laws and there have to be codes. But other than that and the protection of the integrity of Charlotte and the ultimate users of the properties, they need to stay out of it,” Rivers said.

Millard also said he is concerned about too many regulations on the real estate industry. He said he hopes Stone might reverse course.

Millard said he wanted Stone to spend the funds he donated on advertising and hoped that if Stone won he would make some changes to the way the City Council deals with developers.

“I think over the years City Council has been in bed too closely with the real estate industry,” Millard said. “I think if Mr. Stone wins he should be more standoffish and keep it at arm’s length. There’s no specific policy that I hope people change, but I’ve seen over the years how brokers in town are allowed to develop wherever they want and it creates a situation with poor planning.”

Faison said he is backing Stone because he’s had experience with him.

“I think Anthony Foxx is a perfectly good guy and all,” Faison said. “I just know Scott Stone.”

Baughman can be reached at [email protected].

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