by Jim Nintzel
We’ve gotten our first glimpse of how much money is being stuffed into the bank accounts of our local congressional candidates.
The deadline for the year-end reports is Friday, Jan. 31, but some candidates have done so well that they’re eager to share the details.
Here’s what we know as of Tuesday morning: Republican Martha McSally, who wants a rematch against U.S. Ron Barber in Congressional District 2, has had another great fundraising quarter.
McSally raised $322,552, between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31. That comes on top of a $358,231 haul in the third quarter of 2013.
McSally came within a few thousands votes of unseating Barber in 2012. Provided McSally can dispatch political newcomers Shelley Kais and Chuck Wooten in the August GOP primary, the rematch between the former aide who inherited Gabby Giffords’ congressional seat and the former A-10 fighter pilot promises to be one of the most watched races in the nation.
McSally said in a prepared statement that the big fundraising numbers demonstrated that “Southern Arizonans are definitely ready for a fresh voice in Washington.”
Team Barber spokesman Rodd McLeod told The Range that Barber had raised $252,000 in the fourth quarter, but added that the campaign had raised more than $1.1 million in 2013, compared to McSally’s $680,000. His bottom line: The numbers show that both Barber and McSally will have plenty of money for the 2014 campaigns.
“The real question is, what are the differences between these candidates?” McLeod asked. “Ron has been working hard in Congress to make things better for middle-class families in Southern Arizona and McSally either won’t tell voters where she’s at on key issues—like, would she vote to extend unemployment insurance?—or she’s taken positions, like privatizing Social Security, that hurt middle-class families.”
Over in Congressional District 1, the candidates in the three-way Republican primary haven’t matched McSally’s fundraising prowess.
The Republicans in the race—Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin, state Rep. Adam Kwasman and rancher/oilman/hotelier Gary Kiehne—are vying for the opportunity to challenge U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in the sprawling district that stretches from Oro Valley to Flagstaff and includes most of the rural areas in the eastern half of the state. Democrats have a voter-registration edge but the district is competitive.
Team Tobin told the press that the campaign had pulled in $232,000. The candidate remained positive in the press release accompanying the announcement, saying he was “thrilled to have a winning team behind me as we continue pounding the pavement throughout the district”; local auto dealer and GOP ATM Jim Click, who is heading up Tobin’s finance committee, said he was “thrilled with the fundraising effort so far but there’s a lot of work left to do.”
Tobin’s $232K is a decent number to hit, but in the first quarter out of the gate, the candidate ought to be able to scoop up all the low-hanging fruit. Now that the legislative session has begun, Tobin has less time to work the phones for contributions.
But Tobin remains way ahead of Kwasman. The freshman lawmaker, who represents Oro Valley and SaddleBrooke, hadn’t released his fundraising totals before our deadline, but Capitol buzz put him at about $100,000 on the quarter.
Kwasman confirmed he was somewhere in that neighborhood, but his “funders are just starting to come on board and we’re really starting to grow. We are really building momentum for our campaign.”
In his assessment of Tobin’s numbers, Kwasman stuck with his ongoing efforts to portray Tobin as insufficiently conservative to be the party’s standard bearer.
“He’s going to need a lot more than $232,000 to hide the fact that he wrote his own Medicaid expansion bill and that he voted for a billion-dollar tax increase,” Kwasman said. “He’s going to have to answer for his record.”
Team Tobin spokesman Craig Handzlik defended Tobin’s “conservative record of fighting for Arizona families, businesses and taxpayers” and cited an “outpouring of grassroots endorsements.”
The political newcomer Kiehne remains something of a wild card in the campaign. Kiehne, who has a ranch up in Northern Arizona, reported that he’d raised $217,000 in the fourth quarter of 2013 and his total take on the year was $267,000.
Kiehne portrayed himself as the real outsider in the race and took a dig at the legislative experience of his two rivals, saying said in a press release that he was thankful for contributors who “are not lobbyists or special interests looking to curry favor down at the Arizona state capitol. These are patriotic Americans who are tired of our current representation in Washington.”
Kiehne spokesman Chris Baker did not have exact numbers, but said the majority of Kiehne’s fundraising came from contributors and not from the candidate himself.
Team Kirkpatrick has not yet released its numbers, but Kirkpatrick spokesman D.B. Mitchell got in his own dig at Tobin’s numbers.
“NRCC-backed candidates typically raise big numbers their first time out, so it was surprising to see Tobin with such a low total, comparatively,” Mitchell said. “He's really not that far ahead of Kiehne or Kwasman. It looks like Tobin has quite the race on his hands.”