Candidates for Secretary of State in Arizona have raised $2.2 million in 2021, reflecting the strong interest in electoral matters after the narrow margin of victory in the US presidential election and scrutiny of the ballot that has followed by results from Maricopa County.
The cumulative fundraising is more than triple the amount the candidates raised at this stage of the campaign four years ago, according to reports filed with the secretary of state’s office.
Leading all candidates was advertising executive Edward “Beau” Lane, who has netted just over $716,000 since quietly entering the Republican nomination race in late June. Lane has attracted four-figure contributions from a number of business owners and CEOs. Its report showed that more contributions made it to the maximum $5,300 limit allowed by law than any other campaign.
Lane was closely followed by Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley. He has raised about $663,000 since launching his campaign last spring on a wave of false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Many of the contributions came from small donors and many from out of state – possibly due to an endorsement from former President Donald Trump in September.
Democratic candidates Adrian Fontes and State Rep. Reginald Bolding each raised more than the other two Republican candidates: Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale and Rep. Shawnna Bolick, R-Phoenix.
Fontes, the former Maricopa County recorder who helped organize the 2020 presidential election, raised about $385,000 in 2021. Bolding raised just under $199,000.
Ugenti-Rita raised around $94,000 and Bolick just under $157,000, according to reports filed during the weekend show.
Current Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, is not seeking re-election. Instead, she is running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
Expect record amounts in campaign fundraising
The competitive race for the state’s top election official is in line with other swing states that have been crucial to the 2020 election.
A report from the Brennan Center for Justice reviewed early financial reports from three battleground states – Michigan, Georgia and Minnesota – and found that fundraising was already 2.5 times higher than in the previous two election cycles in which voters chose the best election administrator in their state.
The results, the report says, “suggest we will see record sums in election administrator competitions in 2022.”
This is already confirmed in Arizona. In addition to the $2.2 million raised through 2021, four of the six candidates enter the election year with six-figure bank accounts holding cash.
Ian Vandewalker, lead counsel for the Center Democracy Project, predicted the numbers will continue to rise.
“I expect the gap to widen during the election,” he said.
Disruption of fundraising for lawmakers
Spending so far has focused on consultants, fundraising costs and other administrative expenses. Finchem spent $19,000 in September on a mass mailing, for a total to date of $95,266 to Florida-based campaign firm Go Right Strategies.
There is a handicap for four of the candidates: as sitting legislators, Bolding, Bolick, Finchem and Ugenti-Rita cannot fundraise while the Legislative Assembly is in session. Independent spending committees can compensate for this, although none have emerged at this early date.
Fundraising is only one measure of a candidate’s viability. The campaign messages, which place a strong emphasis on electoral processes, from how ballots are created to how they are counted, can sway voters as campaigns target the Aug. 2 primary and Nov. 8 general election.
PAC, self-financed share of totals
Reports show Lane and Fontes dipped into their own pockets to help fund their campaigns. Lane put $38,100 into his own coffers, about 5% of the total raised. Fontes provided a loan of $45,000 to this campaign, representing almost 12% of its financing.
The number of political action committees giving candidates was minimal in the field of six candidates.
Bolding led the way, with contributions from 20 political action committees, totaling $21,580. They include health care, human services and litigators’ PACs, many of whom lobby in the state Capitol, where Bolding is the House Minority Leader.
However, almost half of his total CP came from the Leadership for Equity in Education, a Washington DC-based organization working to end inequality in education. The band’s PAC donated a total of $9,830.
Bolick received $1,450 from four PACs: Raytheon, Fennemore Craig Law Firm, Salt River Project and Lumen AZ PAC. Lumen was formerly known as Century Link.
Finchem brought in $1,000 from the Arizona Petroleum Marketers Association, and Ugenti Rita a total of $500 from Fennemore Craig PAC and mining company Freeport McMoran.
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