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Battle brewing over state Senate seat

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The latest round of campaign finance reports filed by local candidates show a David-and-Goliath battle shaping up for the state Senate District 52 seat.

Democrat Evan Ross of Rome is challenging incumbent Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, to represent the district that covers all of Floyd and parts of Bartow, Chattooga and Gordon counties.

The two will face off on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. Reports that were due this week span the period from April 1 through June 30.

Hufstetler, who’s finishing his third term, had just under $143,000 in his campaign account. Ross reported nearly $6,300 cash on hand after taking in donations totaling close to $20,000 since he announced his candidacy.

Both appear to be pulling the big money from outside the district.

Ross’ largest donation — the $2,600 maximum for an election — came from former Georgia governor Roy Barnes. He also received a second $2,500 donation from New York City artist Sean Cavanaugh and a number of other four-figure donations from out-of-state individuals.

Locally, Berry College professor John Hickman gave $210 and Helix AI CEO James Rhodes chipped in $110.

Ross also reported $2,642 in donations of $100 or less, which do not have to be individually listed.

Hufstetler had no small individual donations this reporting period. He took in $14,700 during the past three months, mainly from political action committees.

The Georgia Republican Senatorial Committee made two maximum donations of $2,600 — one for the primary and one for the general election. Neither Hufstetler nor Ross were opposed in their primaries.

The Georgia Medical PAC in Atlanta also gave $2,600 and MagMutual Insurance Co., which provides medical professional liability insurance, gave $1,500. Other top donors, at the $1,000 level, included the Georgia Hotel and Lodging Association, Georgia Orthopaedic Society PAC and JM Family Enterprises of Deerfield Beach, Florida.

Hufstetler reported campaign spending of $10,200 since the end of March, all in contributions to other entities.

He donated $300 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Georgia and $3,900 to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s gubernatorial campaign. Hufstetler also gave $1,000 each to five other Republicans running for office: David Shafer, Marty Harbin, Josh McKoon, Leah Aldridge and Chuck Payne.

Ross’ spending went first toward setting up a professional campaign — buying reporting software, voter lists, district maps and other tools of the trade.

The political newcomer also paid $3,000 to consultant Matthew Blakely of Lawrenceville and another $3,150 to Kent Dagnall Consultants Inc. in Decatur. More than half the Dagnall money, $1,800, went to build a campaign website.

Ross also bought signs, T-shirts, magnets, mailers and other materials from two Rome companies, Fast Printing & Signs and High-Tech Ad Specialties.

While most local candidates are unopposed, Floyd County voters have four contested races to decide in November along with the statewide races.

In addition to the state Senate seat, there’s a state House match-up between Republican incumbent Katie Dempsey and Democrat John Burnette, a County Commission contest between incumbent Republican Rhonda Wallace and Democrat Stephanie Wright and the 14th Congressional District battle between incumbent Republican Tom Graves and Democrat Steve Foster.