TUPELO – Federal campaign finance filings by Jason Shelton offer a peek into his short-lived bid for the U.S. Senate.
During the month-or-so he was a declared candidate in a special election to replace the now-retired Thad Cochran, Shelton received a total of about $61,000 in campaign donations and loaned his own campaign about $14,000, all while spending about $57,500 on the campaign.
As of the campaign finance filing date, the Shelton campaign had returned about $14,500 in donations.
Some donors declined to take offered refunds, according to Shelton and a campaign consultant, Brad Morris.
The Tupelo mayor looks like he’ll take a financial loss from his brief foray into federal politics. At the close of the last federal campaign reporting period in June, the campaign only had about $3,000 in cash on hand, and Shelton’s personal loans to the campaign had not yet been paid back.
In an interview this week with the Daily Journal, Shelton discussed his departure from the race but didn’t expand much beyond a written statement released in May.
“The timing just didn’t look like it was going to work out,” Shelton said. “I don’t want to say it was completely unwinnable, but there was too much at risk to just be in the race without a realistic shot.”
The second-term mayor said his brief senate campaign was not an attempt to capture wider name recognition.
“I’m not going to run a race just to get my name out there with so much at stake,” Shelton said. “I don’t think that’s a wise thing to do. It’s a disservice to your supporters. So that’s not something I would do then, and am not going to do in the future.”
When asked whether he may run for statewide elected office in 2019, Shelton said he is not actively looking at such a campaign even though he wouldn’t categorically rule out the idea.
Shelton’s departure left incumbent Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, state Sen. Chris McDaniel and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy as the most well-known candidates in a technically non-partisan special election.
Shelton, a Democrat, said he won’t publicly endorse or support any candidate in the race at this time. However, he went on to say that a McDaniel victory would be a “disaster” for the state of Mississippi. He likewise called Cindy Hyde-Smith’s vocal support of President Donald Trump’s agenda disheartening.
Instead of loyalty to ideology or a political figurehead, Shelton called for the person elected as Mississippi’s newest U.S. senator in November to make decisions based upon the needs of the state.
Prominent donors to Shelton’s campaign included Tupelo Chief of Police Bart Aguirre, named to his current post by Shelton, and former Mayor Jack Reed Jr., who served office as a Republican.
Campaign staff consumed much of Shelton’s campaign cash.
Campaign manager Donna Addkison was paid a total of $20,000. Addkison has held numerous political posts, including working for a time as deputy chief of staff to Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. She also worked about a year for New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin before an abrupt departure.
Danny Blanton, campaign communications director, was paid $7,000. Shelton’s mayoral administration previously retained Blanton in 2016 to advise on communications strategy related to the controversial shooting death of a local man by a police officer.
A third campaign consultant, named Eric Torres, was paid about $8,000.