In Brookhaven’s mayoral race, incumbent John Ernst has 12 times more money on hand than challenger Jen Heath going into the final days before the Nov. 5 election, according to Sept. 30 campaign disclosure reports. Ernst is also vastly outspending Heath in his reelection bid, with Heath’s campaign disclosure report showing her campaign was in debt.
The battle for the mayor’s seat is pitting the established mayor with strong political and corporate ties against a community activist whose supporters include homeowners disturbed by the city’s rapid development. More than half of Heath’s campaign is being funded by Laurenthia Mesh, a vocal critic of the city’s leadership who financially backed an unsuccessful campaign last year to defeat the city’s $40 million parks bond.
According to the campaign finance reports filed on the city’s website, Ernst raised $25,777 and spent $16,921.21, leaving him with $60,737.78 on hand, including money in his accounts from pre-campaign periods.
Heath, who decided to run for mayor on the last day to qualify in August, reported raising $5,361. Her campaign is currently in debt by more than $3,300, with expenses totaling $8,725, as of the Sept. 30 deadline.
In an interview, Heath said she had not received invoices for the expenses, such as for yard signs and campaign literature, and the information would be included in the next filing on Oct. 25.
Heath’s largest contribution was a $2,800 donation from Laurenthia Mesh, owner of Golden Triangle Holdings, the company operating the Old Five Point Shopping Center.
Mesh is owner of the “a: Times News,” a newspaper that criticizes city policies, including a special issue last year to criticize the parks bond.
Mesh has also tangled with the city in court, fighting the City Council’s vote to take a small piece of the Corner Pizza property she owns for a planned Ashford-Dunwoody Road intersection improvement. She eventually lost.
Heath donated to her own campaign and lists a total of 13 other contributors on her disclosure form, most of whom are Brookhaven homeowners and business owners, including some who opposed the parks bond and have criticized the city’s current leadership.
Ernst contributions, spending
Ernst’s has spent more than $8,000 for political consulting to keep his seat, according to the Sept. 30 forms filed with the city.
The spending includes $4,000 to New Thought Marketing; $2,100 to Rosetta Stone Communications, a firm that specializes in polling; and $2,000 to Foxhole Campaigns.
Ernst’s contributions from the Sept. 30 reporting period include a who’s who of elected officials and businesses.
They include $200 from Atlanta City Councilmember Amir Farokhi; $300 from the Friends of Steve Bradshaw, a DeKalb County commissioner; $250 from state Sen. Elena Parent; $500 from Friends of Scott Holcomb, a state representative; and $150 from Matthew for Georgia, the campaign group for state Rep. Matthew Wilson.
The Atlanta Hawks LLC, owner of the Atlanta Hawks basketball team, donated $1,500 to Ernst. Dentons, a global lobbying firm, donated $500 to Ernst as well through its political action committee.
Stacey Evans, a former state representative who unsuccessfully ran for governor in the Democratic primary last year, donated $250 to Ernst’s campaign. Brian Robinson, who once served as spokesperson for former Gov. Nathan Deal and is president of Robinson Republic located in Brookhaven, donated $250.
Joey Riley, owner of Kaleidoscope Bistro & Pub in Brookhaven, donated $150 to Ernst. Jimmy Ellis, president and CEO of Jim Ellis Automotive, donated $1,000.
Ernst reported more than $50,000 in contributions in his June 30 disclosure report. That report included a $2,800 contribution from the campaign fund of City Councilmember John Park.
Planning Commission member Conor Sen contributed $1,000 to Ernst, according to the June disclosure report, and Planning Commission chair Stan Segal contributed $250. City Councilmember Linley Jones donated $500 to Ernst’s campaign through an individual donation and a donation from her campaign funds.
Many other contributions included on the June 30 report come from members of the Korean community and the Atlanta Comfort Women Memorial Task Force. They worked with Brookhaven city officials to bring a controversial “comfort women” memorial to the city after the Center for Civil and Human Rights backed out of placing the statue on its property.