New reports hint at expensive GOP governor's race

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- In a hint of just how expensive the six-way Republican race for Arizona governor may become, new campaign finance reports show the amount of campaign cash floating around exceeds $6 million, with the primary still more than seven weeks away.

Christine Jones, a former Internet company executive, loaned her campaign $1.6 million in the first five months of the year, funding by far the largest percentage of her bid from her own coffers. It brings the amount she has loaned her own campaign to nearly $2.1 million, reports filed Monday show.

Meanwhile, state Treasurer Doug Ducey brought in nearly $933,000 in private donations for his bid to win the GOP primary. And former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith pumped $150,000 of his own cash into his campaign account to top off about $900,000 in private donations.

The Republican field in the Aug. 26 primary also includes former U.S. Rep. Frank Riggs, who brought in $212,000, including a $170,000 personal loan. Secretary of State Ken Bennett and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas each have been awarded $754,000 in public financing.

Cash is an important factor because it allows candidates to advertise and get their message to voters. Ducey, Jones and Smith have been running radio and television advertising for weeks, seeking to earn name recognition and support.

Candidates reported their fundraising for the first five months of the year on Monday. The reports don't include money brought in during June. Some candidates pushed part of their contributions into their general election accounts, typically a sign that large individual contributions needed to be split to avoid exceeding fundraising limits.

Jones trailed Smith and Ducey by a wide margin in individual contributions, collecting $92,613.

That's not surprising to campaign professionals who have expected her to run a mainly self-funded campaign.

"What it shows you is that the fundraising ground game is clearly being championed by Scott Smith and Doug Ducey," said Doug Cole, a longtime political consultant who is not representing any of the campaigns.

Running a campaign out of their own checkbook may allow candidates to avoid fundraising, but it also can keep them from making strong connections with voters, Cole said.

"It's has proven time and again that those that are successful in raising money from voters tend to be more successful at the ballot box," Cole said Tuesday. "The simple reason is if someone is giving you money, no matter if it is $5 or $500, you're invested in that person, you will show up and you will vote for that person."

Anna Haberlein, Jones' spokeswoman, declined to comment on the candidate's apparent self-funding strategy.

"We will have the resources to be heard," she said.

Smith's spokesman, Drew Sexton, said his campaign believes its fundraising and available cash put it in a good position for the final weeks of the campaign. Ducey spokeswoman Melissa DeLaney said he also was well-positioned.

In another election-related development, Smith's lawyers filed a complaint against Ducey's campaign Tuesday, alleging illegal coordination with outside groups that ran ads against Smith. DeLaney called the complaint "a cheap publicity stunt." The secretary of state and Citizens Clean Elections Commission will review the complaint and determine if an investigation is warranted.

The sole Democrat in the governor's race, Fred DuVal, brought in nearly $914,000 during the reporting period. Because he faces no primary challenger, his $1.1 million in cash on hand can all shift to the general election.

"While everybody else is spending, we'll be saving over the summer," DuVal spokesman Geoff Vetter said.

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