Dash for Cash
McSally outraises Barber again; Three challengers to Kirkpatrick struggle to bring in dollars
Republican challenger Martha McSally has once again topped Congressman Ron Barber in a fundraising report.
The latest numbers, filed ahead of next week's Aug. 26 primary election, shows that between the end of June and Aug. 6, McSally raised $382,732. In the same period, she spent $530,000 and ended up with just over a million dollars in the bank.
By contrast, Barber raised $245,648 and spent $309,576, leaving him with roughly $1.5 million in the bank.
McSally has outraised Barber over the last year, although the incumbent Democrat, who is seeking his second full term in Southern Arizona's Congressional District 2, has continued to have more cash on hand than McSally.
McSally—the odds-on favorite to win next week's Republican primary—narrowly lost a 2012 race against Barber. Publicly released polls have shown a close race and Roll Call listed Barber as one of the Top 10 most vulnerable House members earlier this month.
McSally's fundraising numbers make her little-known Republican challengers appear particularly outmatched. Businesswoman Shelley Kais has raised roughly $4,300 and spent about $6,100, leaving her with about $11,500 in the bank. Air Force veteran Chuck Wooten raised about $5,500 and spent about $6,500, leaving him with less than $2,400 in the bank.
Republicans in the other competitive race in Southern Arizona, Congressional District 1, don't have McSally's fundraising prowess.
Three Reublicans are vying for the chance to take on incumbent Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick, who reported raising $192,000 between the end of June and Aug. 6. Kirkpatrick had more than $1.3 million on hand at the close of the reporting period.
That puts her way away of all of three of her would-be challengers.
House Speaker Andy Tobin raised about $40,000 and ended the reporting period with about $82,000 in the bank. Rancher Gary Kiehne raised $118,000, but $100,000 came from Kiehne himself. He ended the reporting period with $144,000 on hand. And state Rep. Adam Kwasman raised about $30,000, including $10,000 from himself, and had less than $8,500 in the bank.
Is Team Flake trying to remind Wil Cardon that they have long memories?
One of the biggest "dark money" players in this year's primary cycle has been the Free Enterprise Club, a non-profit organization that normally focuses on reducing regulations and taxes.
This year, the Free Enterprise Club has been pouring money—more than $1.5 million—into races for the Arizona Corporation Commission, secretary of state, governor and various legislative contests. The organization has spent so much, in fact, that the Arizona Secretary of State's Office last week asked the Attorney General's Office to look into whether it should have registered as a political committee.
In the Secretary of State's race, the Free Enterprise Club has been boosting the candidacy of state Rep. Justin Pierce, who is facing state Sen. Michele Reagan and Wil Cardon in the GOP primary.
The Free Enterprise Club's entry into big campaign spending is raising a lot of eyebrows, particularly when it comes to many of the issues that the hit pieces are focusing on. The club normally concerns itself with free markets, not hyping more border alarmism or crusading against the Common Core learning standards.
Rumors abound that Phoenix-based utility giant APS is providing the dollars to assist the campaign on behalf of Justin Pierce, the son of Arizona Corporation Commission member Gary Pierce, who has been generally sympathetic to APS's efforts to make the use of solar power more expensive for homeowners.
Because the Free Enterprise Club functions as a nonprofit rather than a traditional political committee, it is not required to release the source of its funding for the campaign. For its part, APS has declined to confirm nor deny that it is funneling money through the Free Enterprise Club, which certainly suggests something is going on.
While the APS angle provides more than enough justification for the Free Enterprise Club's foray into the Secretary of State's race, there may be another minor factor involved.
The team at the Free Enterprise Club has often been close to U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake. Steve Voeller left a job as Flake's congressional chief of staff in 2005 to found the club and, in 2012, he left the club to go to work chief of staff of Flake's Senate office.
So the Free Enterprise Club's hit pieces targeting Cardon as a big phony who is soft on immigration have a scent of payback to them. Two years ago, Cardon spent millions of dollars trying to knock out Flake in the 2012 GOP primary for the U.S. Senate seat. It didn't go well for Cardon; even after dropping more than $6 million of his own money, he got less than 22 percent of the vote against Flake.
This year, contrary to expectations, Cardon has not been spending much of his own money in the SOS race. That may have something to do with the fact that his family members are suing him, saying he has been misusing family trust dollars on his political career and other luxuries.
However that legal action plays out, we're not surprised to hear some GOP insiders whispering that some of these hit pieces against Cardon might just be Team Flake's way of crushing another one of Cardon's political dreams.