by Jim Nintzel
It’s still early in this year’s City Council campaigns, but you can still glean a few things from looking over the campaign-finance reports that came in earlier this week.
One sign of healthy organization for a Tucson City Council campaign is an application for public matching funds. The city’s matching-funds program, in place since the late ’80s, offers a sweet deal: For every dollar that candidates raise, they get a matching dollar from the city. In return, candidates agree to limit their spending; this year, the limit was just under $115,000, according to a January calculation, but it may be adjusted later this month based on the number of voters in the city.
All of the candidates running this year are participating in the matching funds program.
In north-central Ward 3, incumbent Democrat Karin Uhlich has already filed for matching funds. Uhlich had brought in $23,274 in private contributions through May 31, according to campaign-finance reports filed this week. Uhlich’s private dollars had been been supplemented by $3,332 in public matching funds.
Uhlich had already burned through $15,297, with the lion’s share (just over $9,000) going to political consultant David Steele’s Strategic Issues Management Group, where Adam Kinsey, the savvy former exec director of the Pima County Democratic Party, is managing Uhlich’s account.
While that left Uhlich with only $11,309 in the bank as of May 31, Kinsey tells the Weekly that the campaign will be picking up a check for $18,000 today to refill the coffers.
Uhlich is facing Republican Ben Buehler-Garcia, who lost to Uhlich four years ago by fewer than 200 votes. Buehler-Garcia has not yet applied for matching funds, but he had raised roughly $11,700 and spent about $4,100, leaving him with about $7,600.
Over in southside Ward 5, Richard Fimbres had raised just $18,317 and hasn’t yet qualified for matching funds. Fimbres has spent about $6,000, leaving him with $12,288.
That put him well ahead of his challenger, Republican newcomer Mike Polak II, who had raised just $2,250. Polak had spent nearly all of that—$2,198—and had less than $52 in the bank.
The biggest campaign warchest belong to Councilman Steve Kozachik, who did not draw an opponent this year in his race for reelection in central Tucson’s Ward 6. Kozachik, who ran as a Republican in 2009 and switched to the Democratic Party earlier this year, says he’s still campaigning hard in case a write-in challenger gets into the race ahead of the Aug. 27 primary.
The campaign-finance report shows that Kozachik had raised $26,366 and had spent about $12,500, leaving him with about $13,800 as of May 31.
Kozachik tells the Weekly that he received about $24,500 in matching funds in early June and expects to turn in a new report this week requesting a match of the $9,300 he’s raised since the first of June. He’s also received about $1,800 from political action committees, bringing his total haul for his campaign to roughly $69,400.