The most recent campaign finance reports in the April 7 mayoral election show a wide fundraising gap among the front-runners, with Dan Coffey, a former Assembly member who's been running for 16 months, reporting by far the largest campaign war chest.
The reports, which were due Tuesday and show finances as of Feb. 2, also show that one of Coffey's rivals, Assembly member Amy Demboski, has spent more than $30,000 of her own money trying to get elected. In an interview, Demboski said she isn't rich, but she and her family decided to spend money on the election they had set aside for a house.
The fundraising tallies shed light on which of the candidates in the mayoral race can afford marketing, polling and consulting services. Coffey topped the field, raising about $170,625 in the year preceding Feb. 2, according to a report filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
Most donations were in the range of $100 to $500, although a handful were more modest, in the $25 range. Since he first declared as a candidate, Coffey has raised about $221,769 from more than 660 donors, APOC filings show.
"Well, I've been at it for 16 months," Coffey said Wednesday. He added: "I think it's an indication that there's a lot of support out there for me."
Demboski, who represents Chugiak and Eagle River on the Anchorage Assembly and declared her candidacy last August, raised about $55,352, her APOC filing shows. But about $32,428 was her own money, the filing shows.
Demboski said in a phone interview the money came from savings. She said she and her family had been planning on using the money to build a new house, but decided that the election was more important.
"When it came down to it … we made the decision as a family that this race is too important not to have a conservative in the race," Demboski said.
She said she was also trying to "put my money where my mouth is" and match what donors were giving to the campaign. She said she, a former corporate manager at Alaska Dental Arts, and her husband, a captain in the Anchorage Fire Department, aren't rich.
"We're a working family," Demboski said, adding that she has no plans to make other large personal expenditures on the campaign.
Separately, a conservative group based in the Mat-Su has said it has created an independent expenditure group -- a super PAC -- to help elect Demboski.
The Alaska Republican Assembly, which supports small government and lower taxes, endorsed Demboski last week. The group is now planning a series of fundraisers in the Mat-Su and Anchorage and funneling the money into the Alaska Republican Assembly Federal PAC, said Daniel Hamm, the group's president.
Alaska state law limits donors to $500 donations for a specific candidate. But under a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision, independent expenditure groups can raise an unlimited amount of money for or against a candidate, as long as they don't coordinate their efforts with the candidate. Hamm said the PAC has no ties to the Demboski campaign and the group will separately spend money on traditional communications such as mailers and radio and TV ads that support her candidacy.
"We felt, in this particular election, that this was the best way we could positively affect the election," Hamm said in a phone interview.
Demboski said she wasn't aware of the super PAC when asked about it Wednesday.
Another front-runner, former Anchorage Chamber of Commerce president Andrew Halcro, joined the race in mid-January and reported income of $8,586 as of Feb. 2. Halcro, also a former state representative, on Wednesday attributed the lower number to his campaign's focus so far on "meet and greet" events rather than fundraising.
"We haven't made any 'asks' yet," Halcro said. "But we're beginning that."
Fundraising totals were not available for former state Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, who declared his candidacy after the Feb. 2 filing period ended. Berkowitz said Wednesday he's held one kickoff campaign event where people made contributions. He described support as "terrific," but he didn't have an estimate on how much he's raised.
Coffey is also currently outpacing his opponents in campaign spending, based on the most recent APOC filings. Coffey reported spending about $98,540 in the election, and he had about $104,192 in hand as of Feb. 2.
On Feb. 10, Coffey's campaign began running a pair of radio advertisements that introduce him as a candidate, focusing on his family history and involvement in the Anchorage community. Those ads, which were purchased after the latest APOC filing period, cost $33,000, according to Marc Hellenthal, a political consultant working for Coffey.
Demboski had spent about $33,286 as of Feb. 2. Halcro recorded an expenditure of $171.12, as well as a debt of $7,425.
The next APOC filing for candidates is a 30-day report due March 9.