by Jim Nintzel
Republican Jonathan Paton, one of four GOP candidates looking for the chance to take on Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords this November, announced today that he had raised more than a half-million dollars before the end of the first-quarter filing period.
"I’m very proud that we did as well as we did when we were told by everybody that we should be happy with half of that," Paton says.
The half-million dollar is impressive, given that Paton was still serving in the state Senate when the reporting period started. He has easily outpaced his GOP rivals, including Jesse Kelly, who had raised $272,300 for his campaign as of the end of 2009. (Kelly has not yet filed a first-quarter report, but says he has raised roughly $100,000 in the quarter.)
By raising so much money so quickly, Paton is establishing himself as a credible candidate, although Kelly prefers to think of him as the establishment candidate.
“When the establishment, open-borders, amnesty crowd gets behind a candidate like Jonathan Paton, that candidate is normally very well funded,” Kelly says. “But it should tell the public something that
Jeff Flake and Dick Armey and Jim Kolbe will stand with Jonathan Paton and Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Duncan Hunter and Trent Franks stand with me.”
Paton says his voting record in the Legislature shows that he has been tough on border security.
“I’ve never voted for anything that has anything to do with amnesty,” Paton says. “If he can come up with one bill, I invite him to do that.”
Anne Hilby, spokeswoman for the Giffords reelection effort, says Paton’s numbers are unsurprising because Giffords' 2008 opponent, Republican Tim Bee, raised $465,000 in the first quarter and had raised more than $750,000 by this time in the campaign.
“This is right in line with what Mr. Bee raised,” Hilby says.
Paton says the Giffords camp’s response is “damage control.”
“Right now, they’re trying to figure out why many of their donors actually decided why not to give to her this time and are giving to me,” he says.
Hilby says the Giffords campaign is not yet ready to release their fundraising totals for the first quarter, but it will exceed “by a large margin” the $370,000 that campaign raised in its best quarter in 2009.
“The filing will reflect the widespread support of the congresswoman across Southern Arizona,” says Hilby, who adds that the Giffords campaign started the year with more than $1.5 million in the bank.
Andy Stone of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, blasted Paton’s political connections in an e-mail to The Skinny.
“With Jonathan Paton’s years of shilling on behalf of the payday loan industry and other special interests, it’s no surprise that with a couple phone calls to his old friends, Paton was able to solicit some big checks,” Stone says.