Funding offers snapshot of Alaska governor's race
We now know where the contenders for Alaska's next governor stand financially, just one month away from the August primary.
Monday night was the deadline for state candidates to disclose their campaign's finances.
The tallies offer a glimpse into how much support the candidates have, and where that support is coming from. But interpreting the numbers to draw contrasts between candidates can be challenging because of differences in the length of campaigns and how money has been spent along the way.
While independent Gov. Bill Walker and former state senator Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, came out relatively early with their campaigns, Democratic former U.S. senator Mark Begich and Republican former lieutenant governor Mead Treadwell jumped in just before the filing deadline a little over a month ago. That makes it hard to compare just where the candidates stand in overall fundraising.
Perhaps the best comparison is to evaluate fundraising efforts within the same timeframe.
Since the filing deadline, both Begich and Treadwell have raised comparable amounts to their competitors despite coming late to the race. Dunleavy raised roughly half what the new candidates have since June 1:
Mark Begich: $133,373
Bill Walker: $108,511
Mead Treadwell: $112,762
Mike Dunleavy: $65,742
Another number to consider is how much money each candidate has on hand, or in the bank right now. Walker has a substantial lead with more than $300,000 available, while other contenders each have less than $100,000:
Mark Begich: $95,575
Bill Walker: $337,155
Mead Treadwell: $71,170
Mike Dunleavy: $43,246
As for Dunleavy and Treadwell, set to face off in a few weeks during the GOP primary, Treadwell has substantially more in the bank with more than $71,170 versus Dunleavy's $43,246.
"Cash on hand is significant, but it doesn't tell the whole story," cautions political consultant Art Hackney, who's been involved in elections for more than three decades.
Hackney says even the reporting on these numbers could be part of a larger strategy.
"Some people believe in a strategy where you keep the money on the books as long as possible, and until these reports come out, you don't spend it," Hackney said. "So that it looks like you have more, because the public doesn't pay attention to these things."
While it may look like Treadwell has a steep lead in cash on hand, both candidates have political action committees, or PACs, that have been created to support their candidacy. While Dunleavy for Alaska has raised $520,840 in income, at least one of Treadwell's is reporting zero dollars.
Hackney says that's not unusual.
"But it is notable that they formed them and there's no money in them," Hackney said. "It may be that the people who are willing to invest in a PAC are waiting to see these first numbers, and see how much did the candidate prove himself in this case by being able to raise money on his own."
As for what's in candidates' individual fundraising reports, Hackney says what may be of most interest is who is contributing.
"The endless jousting that takes place right now is, 'Well, he's supporting commercial fishing, so he's not for sport fishing, and so if you're a sport fisherman you should be supporting me and giving money to me,''' Hackney explained. "So people (are) trying to stake out ground and either denying that they are for one interest or another, or embracing it."
Hackney isn't involved in the governor's race at this point, but says he could see himself jumping in for Treadwell or Walker later.
While the numbers paint a picture of the political landscape in the governor's race the dynamic will change following the primary contest between Dunleavy and Treadwell.
The PAC formed to support Dunleavy has been supported almost entirely by just two men. Retired businessman and Kenai sportfishing advocate Bob Penney has contributed $240,000 to the PAC, making up nearly half of its $520,000 raised.
Dunleavy's brother in Texas has given $175,000 to the PAC -- which means the two men have contributed 80 percent of the money donated to it. According to the Alaska Public Offices Commission, Dunleavy's PAC has spent all but about $40,000 of the money it has raised.
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