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Vanasdale outspends 3 other judge candidates

May 17, 2019 News Extra

Butler County Court of Common Pleas judge candidates, from left, Jennifer Gilliland Vanasdale, Matt Fischer, moderator Ron Vodenichar, Nicole Thurner and William Robinson take part Thursday night in an a Candidates Forum last month at Butler County Community College.

Seven Fields attorney spends $312,000 so far

Judicial candidates in Butler County have spent about $423,000.

The four attorneys trying to become the next Court of Common Pleas judge have each spent large amounts of cash so far on their campaigns, with just a few days left before the May 21 primary. The Butler Eagle obtained campaign finance reports documenting expenditures and revenues for each candidate between Jan. 1 and May 6.

All four candidates have cross-filed for both Republican and Democrat tickets and will appear on both ballots. The top vote-getter for each party will appear on the Nov. 5 election. If the same person wins both parties' primaries, they will be the only candidate on the November ballot.

Of the four candidates, Jennifer Vanasdale has far outspent her competition, according to the reports. The Seven Fields attorney spent about $312,000 between Jan. 1 and May 6, her finance report states.

Vanasdale reported no campaign contributions on her filing, indicating she is self-funded.

The largest single payment in her documents is a $22,186 payment to law firm Overmayer, Rebmann, Maxwell and Hippel on April 11, which followed previous payments of $2,500, $2,184, $5,970.

Jason Renton, Vanasdale's driver, received payments totaling about $26,500. Renton's name was brought up in a previous dispute between Vanasdale and judge candidate Nicole Lynn Thurner involving an alleged illegal photograph taken in the Butler County Courthouse.

She paid public relations firm Andring Consulting about $16,250.

Vanasdale's expenditures are dominated by advertisement costs and printing costs for campaign materials. In the interest of full disclosure, the Eagle notes that she paid for advertisements in this newspaper costing about $5,000 in the reported period.

After Vanasdale, William “Wink” Robinson spent about $52,600 in the reported period.

Robinson reported no campaign contributions on his filing, indicating he is self-funded.

Robinson's largest payment was to America First Enterprises in the amount of $5,565 for billboard advertising. He made several payments to the company totaling about $20,700.

Robinson also made a $5,000 payment to Pittsburgh law firm Cohen and Grisby for legal fees on March 25. The firm's attorneys are frequently tapped for such political campaigns.

In the reported time frame, Robinson reported about $5,000 in payments to the Eagle for advertising.

The campaign committee for Matt Fischer of Center Township spent about $48,000 in the reported period.

Fischer filed separate reports showing his own donations of cash to his campaign committee. No other revenues were reported, indicating he is self-funded.

The vast majority of Fischer's money has gone to Pittsburgh political consulting firm Cold Spark, which primarily serves Republican candidates. In total, he has paid the firm about $41,000. It appears much of his expenses are being routed through Cold Spark, as the payments range from $5 to $7,447.

In the reported time frame, Fischer reported a $540 payment to the Eagle for advertising.

Thurner's campaign committee spent about $11,200, plus another $1,100 filed under Thurner's name.

Thurner is the only candidate with campaign contributions reported. Her committee got about $21,800 from outside sources and ended the reporting period with $10,576 in cash reserves.

She reported several $100 or $250 donations from individuals.

Several union groups gave her money. Between five union-associated political action committees she got a total of $6,500.

A few attorneys gave her campaign money, such as John Bench, Timothy Shaffer and Daniel and Susan Lynch.

Thurner's largest expenditure is a $5,000 payment on March 18 to Cohen and Grisby. As mentioned above, the firm frequently offers services to political candidates. Thurner listed the payment as “retainer for legal services.”

Aside from that, her expenditures are generally for usual campaign expenses like stenography work and campaign materials.

In the reported time frame, Thurner reported a $1,400 payment to the Eagle for advertising.