By Maria Saporta
Backers of the one-percent regional transportation sales tax are still knocking on doors seeking to raise money for their campaign.
The referendum vote, which will take place during the primary election on July 31, is considered too close to call. It’s all a matter of who will show up at the polls (or vote early or by absentee ballot).
“It is going to pass….,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said confidently before adding… “by one vote.”
Reed admitted that “It’s going to be tough all the way up to the end.” Reed spoke to a couple of reporters after meeting Monday morning with his blue-ribbon business advisory group — the Atlanta Committee for Progress.
“The business community has now raised more than $5 million,” Reed said with a smile. In fact, the business has raised more than $7 million — and there’s a good chance this will turn into an $8.5 million campaign for just the 10-county metro Atlanta area.
“They’re about $700,000 away from goal,” Reed said without going into specifics about where the goal currently stands.
Jim Hannan, CEO of Georgia-Pacific who is also chairman of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, said that there is broad support in business community for the regional transportation sales tax.
Meanwhile, there are two efforts underway — one is aimed at “educating” voters about the referendum without directly saying to vote for it; and the other campaign is one that openly advocates for passing the tax.
Dave Stockert, CEO of Post Properties, has been chairing the fundraising efforts for the advertising and marketing campaign that’s pushing to get the referendum passed.
“The goal is at least $8 million,” Stockert said of both campaigns. “My piece is $6.5 million. And the educational piece is $2 million, which already has been raised.”
Asked about how close he was to reaching his $6.5 million goal, Stockert said: “We are within striking distance. Every one understands the urgency of this.”
No matter what, groups against the tax have said they are being significantly out-spent by the pro-tax campaigns. Still, even though they have less money, the anti-tax leaders are thought to have a natural advantage because the vote is happening during the primaries when Republican voters are expected to have a higher turnout than Democratic voters.
As in any campaign, the question is how much money is left in the war chest.
“We really have tried to conserve our resources,” Stockert said. “You will start seeing the money being spent about five weeks ahead of July 31. You want to have the biggest impact when you need it most.”
Despite the uphill fight, Stockert said the folks on his team “feel pretty good” about their chances.
“We will be working to the bitter end,” Stockert said. “I’m optimistic. I believe we’re doing every single thing we can do to pass this.”