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Tucson general election: Democrat incumbents out-raise challengers

Incumbents vying to keep their seats for another term in Tucson’s upcoming general election have largely outraised their opponents, campaign finance reports show.

By Nicole Ludden

A combination of public matching funds, political action committee buy-in and individual contributions have pushed the group of four Democrats ahead of their challengers.

Mayor Regina Romero has raised the most money out of the candidates running for mayor and City Council seats in wards 1, 2 and 4, according to the latest report denoting campaign activity up to Sept. 30. Her receipts, when considering both contributions and public matching funds, totals $235,156.

Tucson voters will decide the mayor and three council members who will serve for the next four years at the general election on Nov. 7. Ballots have already been mailed out, but drop-off ballot locations will be open through Election Day.


Mayor Regina Romero, who’s seeking her second term, has raised $120,681 in contributions on top of $114,475 through the city’s public matching funds program, according to her latest finance report.

The Democratic incumbent has brought in significant dollars from political action committees. Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) and Chispa AZ, have contributed $126,087 and $35,031 to Romero’s campaign, respectively, for campaign activities like canvassing and ad placements. The mayor reports spending $145,370 as of Sept. 30 on costs including rent and utilities for her campaign site and $20,000 for digital ads.

The political action committee for AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, donated $1,000 directly to Romero’s campaign.

Republican Janet Wittenbraker reports raising $42,830, a combination of individual contributions and $25,740 in loans from herself. Her campaign has spent more than $25,000 on political consulting, signage and printing, among other expenses, according to her latest finance report.

Independent Candidate Ed Ackerley reports raising $27,615 and spending $20,083 as of his latest campaign finance report. Most of the money came from individual contributions, while the candidate owes $6,705 in outstanding debts and obligations to his own advertising firm, Ackerley Advertising. He’s paid his own firm $1,071 for graphic design, postage and ads.

Libertarian Arthur Kerschen has not raised any money for his campaign. The Pima County Libertarian Party, however, reports raising $14,831 and spending $11,622 as of Sept. 30. Only one other Libertarian candidate, Pendleton Spicer, is on the general election ballot.

Democratic incumbent Lane Santa Cruz has raised $141,317 as of their latest campaign finance report — a combination of $73,600 in contributions and $67,717 in public matching funds. The council member is seeking their second term.

Three PACs have contributed to Santa Cruz’s campaign, including Mijente, a national nonprofit supporting Lantinx and minority rights, which contributed $40,041 for mailers and canvassing in support of the candidate. The Working Families Party National PAC spent $37,808 on phone banking and mailers, while Rural Action Arizona spent $2,200 on Facebook ads for Santa Cruz.

The candidate reports spending $107,623 of their campaign money on payroll for staff, canvassing and text blasts.

Santa Cruz’s Republican opponent, Victoria Lem, has not filed her latest campaign finance report due Oct. 16. Her latest report denoting expenses up to July 15 documents $2,810 in receipts and $85 in expenses.

Current Council Member Paul Cunningham, a Democrat, reports raising $86,860 with $51,750 in contributions and $35,110 in public matching funds. The council member seeking a fourth term has spent $76,967, according to his latest campaign finance report.

Cunningham has raised $3,000 from political committees: $1,000 each from the AFSCME People PAC, the Tucson Fire Fighters Association PAC and the Tucson Police Officers Association PAC.

Republican challenger Ernie Shack has raised $6,008, according to his latest campaign finance report, while spending $2,398. However, his finance reports only list $4,813 worth of donations from seven contributors. None of the reports lists what Shack spent his campaign money on.

Libertarian Pendleton Spicer reports raising $1,360 and spending $950. The majority of the campaign money is from individual contributions.

Nikki Lee, current Ward 4 council member, has raised $42,046, broken down into $23,568 in contributions and $18,478 in public matching funds. The incumbent seeking a second term received $2,000 from PACs: $1,000 each from the AFSCME People PAC the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 99.

Lee reports spending $26,373, largely on the payroll for her campaign staff.

Republican Ross Kaplowitch’s latest campaign finance report lists $5,252 in contributions and $2,608 in spending. The majority of contributions came from individual donors, while most of his campaign’s expenses are for signage.

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