Superintendent Race: Focusing in on message and money

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - Two candidates are still vying for the Republican nomination for Madison County Superintendent of Education.  Matt Massey and Ronnie Blair face off in the July 15 primary runoff.

Let's start by jumping straight into campaign messages. Candidate Matt Massey likes to set the focus on technical schools.

"It's working in a way where if students struggle at their home school, they're actually pulled out of their technical school and their technical program. That's the opposite of what we need to be doing, and so I would like to invest into our technical program into instead of just a career tech center, it could be a career tech academy," Massey said.

Of course, one thing voters need to understand when evaluating candidates -- money is tight.

Candidate Ronnie Blair notes, "We fall short there. We have to make sure once we're elected into the central office that we are spending every dollar in the best possible way that we can. Look for any additional funding sources we can, such as partnering with businesses and that kind of thing."

Massey has an idea on that. "There are foundations, and there are different corporations and entities that want to partner with our schools. And there are state monies available for the workforce development. And I want a director of development to be able to increase those relationships and bring in funds."

But Blair also eyes reorganizations. "There would be some re-evaluation and possibly some reorganization. I certainly don't want to put a burden on our taxpayers. We're talking about funding as an issue. We don't need to come out with extra positions of any type at this time."

Though, messages have a hard time spreading without money. The candidates have different views on this.

"It's difficult, and it's not fun asking for money," Blair says. "I don't like doing that, but that's part of it. Of course, we've been fortunate, that we've been able to bring in enough funds to run an acceptable campaign, I believe."

Massey responds differently. "I've had a great time, and we really haven't done a single fundraiser," he said. "We haven't had an event to go, 'Come to this event to donate to the campaign.' We've had some meet and greets. But I have enjoyed this process. It's almost like an interview with about 10,000 folks."

They also have different results.  Massey's campaign finance reports show he generates a lot of donations from individuals, but also leans on big contributions from political action committees.

Those are membership groups, like the Alabama Builders PAC, Alabama Realtors PAC, and Bizpac - which comes from the Committee of 100.

Massey says raising the money did not require any promises though.  "Absolutely not, the contributions to my campaign is by a committee, an association of group members. They interviewed all the candidates. They vetted all the candidates. I'm very proud of the donations I have, and none of them came with strings attached."

Now we look at Ronnie Blair. He also has a healthy roster of individuals donating, but the big money comes in on a single day in May.

Smart Living - a developer - donated $5,000.  But just above it on the same disclosure form, you find another $5,000 - from Alabama Leadership Now PAC.

Here's the thing -- Alabama Leadership Now gets the money for the donation from Smart Living, the developer we just mentioned.

In one day, the developer turned over $10,000 to Blair, whose total fundraising for the year comes in just over $22,000.

What's more? Smart Living LLC just sold $1.2 million dollars worth of land to another school district - Madison City.

However, Blair also says he doesn't make promises in exchange for donations. "When I give people my word, I stick by it. My word is when funds are given to our campaign, it's going toward the good of the 20,000 students in our county. And I'm not going to have anybody that I own anything. I haven't promised anybody anything, and I don't plan to."

The runoff itself happens on July 15.  Please make plans to vote.  Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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