Spending in the race to be Tucson’s next mayor and for open seats on the council has already broken previous local fundraising totals.
Almost $1.6 million has been raised by various campaigns days before the primary Aug. 27, and well before the general election in November, based on campaign finance reports filed with the City Clerk’s Office.
The actual figure for spending is likely a little bit higher, mostly because of the delay between money being raised and spent and election reporting deadlines.
Political action committees are spending money like water. One Phoenix-based PAC sent expensive, glossy mailers to city — and county residents who can’t vote in the primary — last week attacking mayoral candidate and former state Sen. Steve Farley.
The high-profile three-way race to the Democratic nominee for mayor accounts for a majority of the $1.6 million in election spending so far.
Being the mayor of Tucson pays $42,000 a year.
City taxpayers have chipped in $209,860 in the race thanks to the city’s voter-approved public matching program. Referred to as the clean-election program by some candidates, the money comes out of the city’s general fund. That pot of money also is used to pay for things like parks, street repairs and for the Police and Fire departments.
A total of five candidates took part in the program, but more than half the funding — $118,592 — went to mayoral candidate Regina Romero’s campaign.
So far, Farley has raised $262,663, and developer Randi Dorman has raised $193,318 from private donors. Romero, a three-term member of the City Council, has raised $240,924 through a mix of private donations and matching funds.
The election reports outline candidate spending through Aug. 10, although PACs are required to report major spending in the race within 48 hours.
Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who said he broke fundraising records when he first ran in 2011, said the amount of money spent so far on this race easily eclipses the roughly $320,000 he received.
“This far exceeds anything raised historically in the community,” Rothschild said.
Candidates running for mayor and Ward 1, which mostly covers the city’s west side, are expected to burn through their campaign war chests this weekend. That’s because the mail-in primary election is Tuesday.
It will decide the Democratic nominee in both races.
The Democratic nominees in city races are considered front-runners because the city has a 2-to-1 registration advantage over Republicans.
The winner of the three-way Democratic mayoral primary will face independent Ed Ackerley in the general in November. Independents — those not registered with any party — are wild cards in that political calculation, though the city of Tucson has not elected an independent as mayor since 1908.
Former state Rep. Tom Prezelski said Ben Heney was elected as an independent as neither the Republican or the Democratic Party nominated any candidates that year. He said Heney’s only opponent was a member of the Socialist Party.
Ackerley, after spending more than 40 years as a registered Democrat here in Tucson, changed his party registration in January to independent.
The only other contested primary is in Ward 1, where Democrats Rob Elias, Sami Hamed, Miguel Ortega, and Lane Santa Cruz are running to take Romero’s seat.
It is unclear if the winner in the Democratic race for Ward 1 will have a challenger in November.
GOP write-in candidate Sam Nagy needs at least 84 Republicans living in Ward 1 to return ballots to the city with his name on it to qualify for the general-election ballot.
Mailer looks official but asks for donations to RNC
The oversized envelopes hitting Tucson mailboxes certainly look official. It says “do not destroy official document” printed in all caps in the upper left corner.
Inside, the four-page mailing from the Republican National Committee explains that “President Trump has requested that a Census of every Congressional District must be conducted immediately.”
It isn’t until the 10th paragraph that the RNC hits you up for a contribution, suggesting at least $25, but “whatever you can send” to help the Republican Party underwrite this project as well as “re-elect President Trump and Republicans at all levels of government.”
The mailing is not part of the decennial U.S. census mandated by the U.S. Constitution to count the population nor part of the lesser-known annual survey by the Census Bureau, known as the American Community Survey.
The mailer attempts to capitalize on attempts by the Trump administration to add a citizenship question on the official census questionnaire. The effort was blocked by a federal judge in July.
Following the decision, Trump said he would continue to fight for a legal avenue to ask the question.
The RNC did not respond to a request for comment.
It’s not clear how many households here received the “2019 Congressional District Census” mailer. The person who shared their copy with the Star lives on Tucson’s north side in Congressional District 2.
The Republican National Committee provided a preprinted envelope to return the survey, but it required a first-class stamp.
What the RNC planned to do with the completed surveys is not known.
Dorman confirms tense email exchange
Mayoral candidate and developer Randi Dorman clashed with board members of the Museum of Contemporary Art last year, according to leaked emails in which she shared her frustrations about “old white people” serving on the board.
Dorman confirmed this week that the exchange took place.
She says, however, that she momentarily was frustrated after returning home from a trip and believed that other board members were meddling in the day-to-day operations of MOCA and the fundraiser that was aimed at a younger, more diverse audience.
“I am sorry to be indelicate, but do they not realize they are white old people and not the target of the fall fundraiser??” she wrote. “The board is in charge of Governance, Fundraising, advocating for the museum in the community and hiring and firing the (executive director.) That is it. Nothing else.”
Then MOCA board President E. Courtney Johnson responded a few days later saying that Dorman’s email did not have the support of the board or the museum.
“The end of a rough week is coming to a close and I would be remiss if I did not state emphatically that MOCA, its Board and Staff do not discriminate or condone discriminating words or actions of any type,” wrote Johnson.
Dorman says she apologized shortly after she sent the email.
“These donors refused to understand that while MOCA’s gala may be for our donors, our Fall Fundraiser is for a young and diverse crowd, reflective of MOCA visitors, the artists we exhibit and the community we serve,” she wrote. “I mistakenly hit “reply all” with a comment venting my frustration at their criticism of an invitation that demonstrated their inability to see beyond their own privilege. I immediately apologized but I will never apologize for ensuring that MOCA remains accessible to all we serve and not just a small, elite group.”
Dorman is no longer on MOCA’s board of directors.
Tucson man accused of voting twice in election
A Tucson man is facing felony charges for allegedly voting twice in the 2016 general election.
Randy Allen Jumper, 61, was investigated by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office after being identified and referred for review by the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office last year. He is accused of voting in Pima County, as well as in Washoe County, Nevada.
Jumper is registered as an independent in Pima County, voter registration records show. He was registered here as a Republican for about two decades. He changed his registration to independent in 2014, records show.