Carmela Salvador walks past campaign signs lining Main Street Loop in Kenai Tuesday afternoon.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Former state senator John Torgerson is raising more money and spending it faster than his three principal opponents in the race for Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor, according to campaign finance information available from the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
The 30-Day Report filed with the APOC a month ahead of the Oct. 4 election showed Torgerson had raised nearly $41,000, a figure that includes non-monetary contributions and some $550 of his own money, and had spent more than $25,000 on various campaign expenses.
That’s nearly as much income as reported by candidates Ed Oberts, Gary Superman and John Williams combined. They, like Torgerson, are required to file campaign finance reports with APOC.
Mayoral candidates Fred Sturman and Raymond VinZant have told APOC they do not expect to spend more than $5,000 on their campaigns for mayor and have been designated exempt from filing rules.
Oberts, for the past six years assistant to borough Mayor Dale Bagley, has raised close to $9,000, but almost $7,500 of that is his own money, according to his APOC report. He has spent just over $7,000.
Superman, three times elected to the borough assembly and that body’s current president, reported contributions of slightly more than $11,500. He has spent almost all of it, $10,561.
According to APOC, Superman had contributed about $3,150 of his own money by the Sept. 5 filing deadline.
John Williams, who spent 18 years as mayor of the city of Kenai, had taken in almost $25,300, including so far nearly $15,000 of his own. By the filing date for the 30-Day Report, Williams had spent almost $16,000.
The exact amounts of nonmonetary in-kind contributions made to each candidate were unavailable from APOC on Tuesday, but they are figured as part of the overall contribution totals.
By comparison, neither of the two candidates running for mayor in 2002 then-incumbent Dale Bagley and his unsuccessful challenger, former state lawmaker Ken Lancaster had raised or spent as much as Torgerson has so far in 2004.
In his 30-Day Report of 2002, Bagley reported contributions totaling $17,220, which included $500 of his own, and expenses of $14,352. Lancaster had raised $9,498 and spent $2,652.
Laws governing campaign contributions restrict individual contributors to no more than $1,000 in any calendar year. Groups, such as political action committees (or PACs), are limited to annual contributions of no more than $2,000. Thus, to some degree the amounts gathered from contributors, other than the candidate themselves, may be indicative of the support they enjoy.
Torgerson said Tuesday that he is seeing fairly broad support and has had successful fund-raisers in communities large and small across the borough. He acknowledged his success at raising campaign funds, including from business owners.
“Overall, we have a lot of business support,” he said. “People like the fact that I’m a business person and understand business arguments and needs.”
Torgerson said he plans to reference his record in the Alaska Senate when pitching his mayoral candidacy to voters. He’s been crisscrossing the borough knocking on doors, he said.
“Money is one thing, but you have to get out and let people know who you are,” he said.
Torgerson also said to expect increasing efforts to get his message out in newspapers and radio ads as the election approaches.
Superman said Tuesday that he was bracing for the expected media blitz from the Torgerson camp, but added that he does not believe money will buy the mayor’s race.
“Money is always an issue, without a doubt,” Superman said Tuesday. “I don’t know where they are spending their money. We have run a really tight ship here and utilized our dollars pretty effectively. I believe I’ve got more of a volunteer force than the top money raisers. I hope to raise more money in the last three weeks of the campaign. We will get by with what we’ve got and be as effective as we can.”
Oberts agreed that money is always important in a campaign and said he is committed to raising enough to get his message out and let the electorate know he is “a legitimate candidate.” Like Superman, Oberts said having the most money doesn’t always translate into success at the polls. He noted that Bagley spent less than incumbent Mike Navarre in the 1999 race for mayor, yet won the mayor’s seat.
“I’m very positive and excited,” Oberts said Tuesday. “People are telling me I’m doing well.”
At the start of a campaign, candidates must be willing to risk some of their own money, he said. Nevertheless, Oberts said he was looking forward to more contributions from supporters. As to his opponents raising and spending more, Oberts said that was always a challenge, but that he did not see it as a major hurdle.
Efforts to reach Williams for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.
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