Outside groups have already spent more than $281,000 this month in the Democratic primary race to replace retiring Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild.
With less than a month before the Aug. 27 Democratic primary, three political action committees have filed reports with the Tucson City Clerk’s Office detailing tens of thousands of dollars spent on mailers, advertising on television and radio, and canvassing for candidates.
So far, most of the spending benefits three-term City Councilwoman Regina Romero who faces Steve Farley, a former state lawmaker, and Randi Dorman, a developer, in the primary race for mayor.
Two groups, United 4 Arizona and Chispa AZ PAC, reported various activities benefiting Romero’s campaign. The third political action committee, Tucson Together, has spent nearly $20,000 on ads benefiting Farley.
The third Democrat in the primary race, Dorman, and independent mayoral candidate Ed Ackerley, who faces the winning Democrat in the November general election, do not have backing from similar groups currently reporting that they’re spending money to advocate on their behalf, according to filings with the City Clerk’s office.
Chispa AZ PAC reported spending $155,618 in the last month to help Romero. It includes paying $76,575 to Mesa-based FieldCorps LLC for “field canvass consulting.” Other expenses include $28,000 for digital advertising, nearly $26,000 for various mailers, postage and printed materials and $8,617 for a poll.
In a separate filing with the city, Chispa AZ PAC said it’s funded by several other political action committees. Those include the Arizona List PAC, the League of Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona PAC, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 99.
The last group, the UFCW 99, also formed its own political action committee earlier this month. It registered with the city as United 4 Arizona.
It started airing a 30-second television ad earlier this week featuring union members praising Romero.
United 4 Arizona will reportedly spend $125,457 on the ads, running them on some local TV stations and on select Cox cable channels.
Tucson Together, the group backing Farley, filed a report earlier this month stating it paid New York-based Red Horse Strategies $19,456 for mailers. At least half of Tucson Together’s funding has come from Tucson Firefighters Local No. 479 PAC, according to filings with the clerk’s office.
Campaign finance laws strictly prohibit candidates from communicating with independent political action committees even if they are running as a “clean elections candidate.”
Romero is the only mayoral candidate using the city’s matching fund program. It matches every dollar received during the campaign period from any individual. Donations made by the candidate, political committees, corporations or other groups are not matched.
At least two other groups seem to be active in the mayoral race: Tucson Firefighters Local No. 479 PAC; and Mi Familia Vota. Neither has filed reports with the City Clerk’s Office.
Firefighters estimated they spent $15,000 on the signs.
Mi Familia Vota recently published a 30-second video it labels a voter guide that is critical of Farley while praising Romero’s accomplishments. Dorman is not mentioned in the ad.
It is unclear whether the video would qualify as general voter advocacy or as a campaign ad for Romero. Calls to Mi Familia Vota officials were not immediately returned Tuesday.