There are several signs elections are approaching - political signs that have popped up across the county.

From advertising campaigns to public appearances, candidates are doing all they can to keep their names and platforms fresh in voters' minds.

The expense is often greater for political newcomers who don't have a stash of signs left over from the last election cycle or a proven campaign strategy. Some choose to hit the trail running, seeking campaign contributions and pledges of support from friends, family and like-minded citizens.

But before they can accept a single contribution, the law states candidates must first appoint a treasurer, according to Dr. Malcolm Cross, associate professor and head of the department of social sciences at Tarleton State University.

Cross also has direct knowledge of the political process outside of the classroom. He has served as treasurer for the Erath County Republican Party since 1992, and is running unopposed in the May 12 election, seeking his seventh term on the Stephenville City Council.

Cross recently spoke with the Empire-Tribune and shared his knowledge about campaign financing.

"There aren't any particular qualifications to serve as campaign treasurer," Cross said.

A person is ineligible for appointment if they are the campaign treasurer of a political committee that has outstanding filing obligations or penalties unless they do not exceed $5,000, according to the Texas Ethics Commission.

"Ultimately, the candidate is responsible, not the treasurer," Cross added. "It's a formal way of having a candidate designate someone responsible for legally collecting, spending and reporting funds. "

While Cross said the individual selected to serve as treasurer is not necessarily significant, he said it's important for candidates to choose a trustworthy individual if they don't intend to be their own treasurer.

A candidate may appoint themselves as treasurer, a strategy implemented by some county candidates, including Commissioner Jim Pack, pct. 1, who will seek re-election in May and two of his challengers, Dee Stephens and Bret Greenway. A third challenger, Tom Griffith, opted to put finances in his wife's hands, a method also adopted by Incumbent Lee Roy Gaitan and challenger Bobby Mendez who will face off in the race for constable, pct. 2, and Commissioner Joe Brown, pct. 3.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Tommy Bryant chose a close friend and "well respected business man" in his first bid for office in 1996. Tom Brooks is still serving as Bryant's treasurer a decade and a half later. Bryant said he did view the appointment as significant and carefully considered his options.

"I went to a seminar put on by professors and other individuals in the political realm, and they gave pointers on what to do when running for office," Bryant said. "One of the main things was about choosing a treasurer. They suggested selecting someone who was well known and well thought of in the community since their name would be associated with your campaign."

With their treasurers selected, candidates are ready to seek support, and there are few restrictions when it comes to raising campaign funds in the Lone Star State.

"Election laws in Texas are fewer than those in many other states," Cross said. "At the local level, Texas doesn't really regulate the amount of money a candidate can collect or spend from individual or private donors. The state does however require the amounts collected and spent be publicly reported."

Locally, county candidates report to the county clerk's office, city candidates file reports with the city secretary and those on the school district ballot file in the district administration office.

Cross said corporate contributions and those from labor unions generally spell "big trouble."

"The greatest campaign expenses are media expenditures," he said, adding state and federal representatives often take on hefty bills for wide-reaching advertising that can be viewed by individuals across their district and often turn to costly television and radio commercials.

"In Stephenville, that wouldn't make sense, it would be an inefficient way to communicate with voters," Cross said.

During his time in office, Cross said he has found an efficient way to get his message out. In his seven terms, he has won three contested elections.

"Targeted mailers," he said.

Cross said he only mailed literature out to voters who participated in previous elections.

"That way I knew I was reaching the people I wanted to communicate with, those who were interested in city elections," he said, adding the campaign strategy was a suggestion from the League of Women Voters.

He said an average of about 600-800 residents typically vote in Stephenville city elections, and with the city's population estimated at about 18,000 residents in 2010, finding the target audience is vital.

"At one time, I heard an opponent was going door-to-door," Cross said. "That only invades privacy, but you would be spending a lot of time with folks who aren't interested in the race and likely will not vote."