As first campaign finance reports are filed, gubernatorial race comes into focus

Steve Gaynor and Karrin Taylor Robson are sitting on millions for their gubernatorial campaigns as they prepare to hit the airwaves, while Katie Hobbs and Kari Lake are offsetting high fundraising numbers with big spending.

The state of the governor’s race became a little clearer on Saturday as candidates submitted campaign finance reports for all of 2021. For candidates like Gaynor, Robson and Hobbs, it was an opportunity to present big bottoms as the race heats up.

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For others, it was a moment of truth: Kimberly Yee announced she was dropping out of the gubernatorial race and instead seeking a second term as state treasurer. Shortly after, she filed a campaign finance report showing she had raised only about half a million dollars, by far the lowest of the top five GOP candidates.

“I would like to thank my volunteers and supporters in all 15 Arizona counties for their support during my campaign for governor. As I transition my campaign, I invite them to join me in my re-election efforts to Arizona Treasurer,” Yee said in a press release. “We will have more information in the coming days as I launch my re-election campaign for Treasurer.”

Yee will have a fight on her hands as she seeks re-election. State Representative Jeff Weninger, R-Chandler, wrote on Twitter that he will not retire from the treasurer’s race. He only raised $100,000 and has about $69,000 on hand. Yee has about $229,000 on hand and must collect at least 6,663 valid signatures by April 4 to qualify for the ballot.

That leaves Gaynor, Lake, Robson and Matt Salmon as the four candidates for the Republican nomination in August.

Gaynor, a wealthy businessman who largely self-funded his unsuccessful campaign for secretary of state in 2018, started the year as the race’s financial frontrunner after pumping in $5 million. He has about $4.6 million and has announced a statewide ad buy, boasting that he’s the first candidate in the race to start running TV ads. Several sources who track ad buys say they don’t see any movement from the Gaynor campaign yet.

Robson has about $3 million in hand after pumping $1.95 million of his own money into his campaign and raising another $1.7 million from private contributors. And all signs point to her putting that money to work quickly. Records show Robson will begin a sustained television ad campaign on Tuesday, spending about $368,000 for its first week of broadcast and cable advertising. Records show she bought more than $2.2 million in airtime through early March.

It’s an old political campaign maxim that once a campaign airs, it should never end until the race is over. And Robson should have the money to make sure that happens: Developer and former regent married to Ed Robson, founder and president of Robson Communities, Robson should spend tens of millions of his own money on the race.

Robson’s spokesman, Matthew Benson, wouldn’t say if she would stay on the air uninterrupted during the primary, but said she “would have the resources to reach every home and every voter in Arizona.” He stressed that she was not content to self-fund her campaign and was focusing heavily on private fundraising.

Although Robson, who has never held or run for public office, entered the race with very little name recognition among voters, Benson said that would change quickly as his ad campaign continued.

“This is a major purchase, and they will continue to grow. We’re not talking about a contestant who’s just going to be on Animal Planet. She’s going to be everywhere,” Benson said.

Lake, a former Fox 10 presenter who rocketed to frontrunner status in the GOP primary with his combative Trump style, has raised $1.5 million, mostly through contributions under $100 from across the country. But his campaign finance report showed most of that money was gone by the end of 2021.

Through the end of the year, Lake has spent over $1 million and started 2022 with just $375,000 in hand. Among the many expenses was $52,000 for venue rentals for events at Mar-a-Lago, the Florida club owned by former President Donald Trump, who Lake approved in September; $145,000 to Vantage, a Phoenix merchandising company; and several hundred thousand consultants and campaign staff.

Lake said his goal was not to have the most money for political insiders and pundits to write positive things about his campaign.

“I spent my money to build a big track. I’m pretty sure my opponents would gladly trade their money for my results,” Lake said in a statement provided to the Arizona Mirror. “I trust Republican primary voters to know the difference between someone fighting for them and people fighting to maintain the failed status quo, no matter how much they spend on themselves or their loved ones’ money. husband.”

Salmon, a former congressman and 2002 Republican candidate for governor of Arizona, also burned through a significant chunk of the money he raised last year. Salmon raised nearly $1.2 million and spent around $686,000, leaving him just under half a million in 2022.

Hobbs has a big financial lead in the Dem primary

On the Democratic side, Hobbs was by far the money leader. As Arizona’s secretary of state, the state’s top election official, she received national publicity throughout 2021 amid her reaction to false claims by Trump and his allies that the 2020 election had been rigged, as well as his opposition to the so-called “audit” of the Maricopa County election, which was commissioned by Senate Speaker Karen Fann and conducted by unqualified and biased contractors who came to dubious conclusions.

This publicity and his status as a longtime frontrunner helped Hobbs raise $2.9 million in private contributions, the most of any candidate in either party’s gubernatorial race.

Like Lake, Hobbs has spent an extraordinary amount of his campaign money so far. According to her campaign finance report, she spent nearly $1.6 million. By far the largest expense was over $500,000 for Authentic Campaigns, a Virginia-based fundraising and digital advertising company. Hobbs has also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on staff and consultants — she’s already paid her CFO $97,000 and her campaign manager $79,000 — over $100,000 in income taxes and more than $15,000 in health care for employees.

Hobbs spokeswoman Jennah Rivera said the campaign paid a lot of long-term costs upfront in 2021.

“We’re just doing what it takes to win by investing now,” Rivera said.

Democratic hopeful Marco Lopez, a former U.S. Customs and Border Patrol official and former mayor of Nogales, spent most of the $1 million he raised on his campaign, including $235,000 of his own money. Lopez spent around $815,000, leaving her with only $253,000 on hand.

Former state Rep. Aaron Lieberman has $767,000 of the $1.16 million he raised last year in his bid for the Democratic nomination, which includes $150,000 in self-financing. Lieberman has spent around $376,000 so far.

One surprise that emerged from campaign finance reports was that of unknown Republican gubernatorial hopeful Paola Tulliani, founder of La Dolce Vita biscotti. According to her report, Tulliani, who goes by the name Paola Tulliani Zen, invested nearly $1.2 million of her own money in the campaign. By the reporting deadline, she had only spent about $26,000.

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