Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, in his bid to win a second term as mayor, has raised twice as much as his main rival in recent months, new financial disclosure statements show.
Berkowitz raised more than $102,000 from several hundred donors as of Feb. 1, including a large number of city employees and members of his executive team. A number of political action committees affiliated with unions also gave Berkowitz money.
His top challenger, Rebecca Logan, raised about $51,000, according to her campaign disclosure reports. Her donors included several Republican state legislators, former Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, retirees and executives in the real estate, home building and resource development industries.
Logan is the general manager of an oil, gas and mining industry association, but she said only about 20 percent of her donors came from the oil and gas industry.
She also said she felt she was on track with fundraising as a first-time candidate.
No other mayoral candidate raised a significant sum of money. While fundraising doesn't predict the outcome of a political race, it does suggest who has an advantage in communicating their message to voters.
Candidates have to report donations to the Alaska Public Offices Commission, the regulatory agency that tracks campaign finance. Disclosures by individual candidates don't reflect spending by outside groups that aren't affiliated with the campaigns. Those "independent expenditure groups" are not subject to limits on fundraising.
Logan had spent about $35,000 so far — about $5,000 more than the Berkowitz campaign. The money has largely gone to campaign signs, fundraisers and advertising.
"I'm doing a lot of radio and digital right now to get my name out there," Logan said.
Berkowitz pointed out that his campaign had more than $70,000 in cash on hand. He hinted that a bigger push was coming.
Timing will be different this year. For the first time, Anchorage is running its election by mail. On March 13, the city will send out ballots to registered voters.
Political strategists have said that heavy campaigning will come around that time, instead of the usual pre-Election Day blitz.
The new vote-by-mail system largely replaces the old system of precinct voting. April 3, "Election Day," is actually the last day to cast a ballot.
More than half of Berkowitz's expenses went toward a poll conducted by Alaska Survey Research, a firm run by political strategist Ivan Moore. Berkowitz said Friday that the poll was an effort to test political messaging.
He said it confirmed what he planned to focus on in the coming weeks: crime and the state's fiscal situation.
Logan has made crime the focus of her campaign. Business owners, she said, feel the city is trying to downplay the city's crime problems.
Berkowitz said Anchorage residents are "rightfully concerned" about public safety.
He said he plans to discuss crime in the context of the dramatic influx of addictive opioid drugs in Alaska, and state cutbacks. He also said he plans to talk about how he's added 100 officers to the police department.
Hefty fundraising for opponents of Proposition 1
The opponents of an initiative to regulate Anchorage restroom use by sex at birth reported raising more than $124,000 since July, dwarfing the amount raised by the initiative's supporters.
Proposition 1 would undo the part of Anchorage's nondiscrimination law that allows people to use the restroom or locker room that corresponds with their gender identity.
The opposition campaign, Fair Anchorage, said Friday it had also received nearly $300,000 in non-cash donations. That includes a website and staff time donated by the Washington, D.C.-based group Freedom For All Americans; staff time and meetings coordinated by the D.C.-based group the National Center for Transgender Equality, and staff time from the ACLU of Alaska.
The "Yes on 1" campaign reported raising about $31,000 overall. The money came from two sources: Alaska Family Action, a socially conservative advocacy group, and the Family Policy Alliance, a Christian organization based in Colorado Springs.
Kim Minnery, one of the sponsors of Proposition 1, said she expected her group's campaign to be outspent, calling it "grass-roots."
Campaign mounted to support ML&P sale
Finance reports also show the hopeful buyer of Anchorage's city-owned electric utility is gearing up for an advertising campaign.
In early February, Chugach Electric Association spent about $60,000 on communications consulting and campaign strategy, records show.
The member-owned cooperative has offered about $1 billion to buy Municipal Light & Power, the utility that serves downtown, Midtown and parts of East Anchorage.
The sale is going before voters on the ballot in March. The city needs voter approval to move forward with negotiations on a detailed sales document, which would be submitted first to the Anchorage Assembly and then to regulators.