by Jim Nintzel
The next round of campaign finance reports in the Tucson City Council race isn’t due until the end of June, but there’s a carrot that encourages candidates to turn in their reports sooner: The city’s campaign-financing program.
In the late ’80s, long before the state established Clean Elections, Tucson voters passed an initiative creating a program that provides a dollar-for-dollar match for mayoral and council candidates. Once council candidates qualify by gathering a minimum of 200 contributions of at least $10 from Tucson residents, they’re eligible for a dollar-for-dollar match for whatever money they raise.
The catch: They have to agree to limit their spending. Although the final figure has yet to be determined, council candidates are limiting to spending roughly $104,000 this year; mayoral candidates are limited to roughly $208,500.
Qualifying for matching funds is a sign that a campaign is organized; the sooner that threshold is passed, the sooner matching funds come rolling in and candidates can concentrate on something besides fundraising.
While all of the council candidates are participating in the program this year, only one council candidate has already qualified for matching funds: Ward 2 City Councilman Paul Cunningham, who had raised $17,641 through May 28. Cunningham still had nearly $12K in the bank, according to his campaign-finance report.
Cunningham is facing Republican Jennifer Rawson, who is also participating in the matching-funds program.
This week, Ward 1 Councilwoman Regina Romero applied for matching funds. Through the end of May, Romero reports raising more than $43,526. Provided auditors don’t find problems with her report, she’ll have raised more than $86,000 once she gets her match.
Since Romero is limited to spending $78,177 in her primary against fellow Democrat Joe Flores and only faces a write-in candidate in the general election, she’s essentially done with fundraising for the election season.
Some of Romero’s notable contributors: Attorneys Bob Gugino ($430) and Keri Silvyn ($100), who have represented the Rio Nuevo Board that’s been sparring with the city over downtown redevelopment; David Goldstein of Diamond Ventures ($410); downtown developer Fletcher McCusker ($420); Don Bourn, who gave Romero $200 (which is twice the $100 he paid for the still undeveloped downtown Thrifty block he purchased from the city in 2006, before Romero was on the council); and Jim Horvath of Town West Realty, which has dabbled in downtown redevelopment ($240).
Very few of the mayoral candidates are participating in the matching-funds program. Only independent Pat Darcy and Green Party candidate Mary DeCamp have signed up to accept matching funds; the other Green Party candidate, Dave Croteau, has declared that he won’t spend more than $500 on his campaign.
Democrat Jonathan Rothschild and Republicans Shaun McClusky and Ron Asta have not signed contracts to participate in the program.
Rothschild hasn’t yet turned in a report covering his fundraising this year, but Democratic Party chairman Jeff Rogers says that political rookie has amassed somewhere around $200,000 for his campaign even without matching funds.
We’ll see how much of that he actually needs once the legal challenges are done and the candidate line-up settles.