Downtown Juneau has the candidates, but the Mendenhall Valley has the money.
With 30 days to go before the Aug. 21 statewide primary, new reports from the Alaska Public Offices Commission reveal a populated primary for House District 33 has drawn less campaign money than a three-person race for House District 34.
In District 33, which covers downtown Juneau and Douglas as well as Haines, Skagway and Gustavus, four Democrats are in a primary election for the right to face independent Chris Dimond in the November general election. In District 34, an independent is challenging a Democrat in the Democratic primary. The winner will face Republican Jerry Nankervis, who is running unopposed in his party’s primary.
Candidates are required to report their fundraising totals 30 days before Election Day, and the deadline for filing those reports was midnight Monday.
In House District 33, retired teacher Sara Hannan has a big fundraising advantage among the four Democrats. According to APOC reports, she has garnered more than $30,000 in contributions since announcing her campaign.
“I think it shows I’ve been working real hard for several months,” Hannan said by phone.
A listing provided by APOC shows more than 220 contributors, including some sitting legislators. Fewer than 10 out-of-state contributors are listed.
“It’s a true grassroots campaign,” she said. “My contributions are Alaskan.”
Steve Handy, of Douglas, has raised a little over $1,100 from eight contributors and himself, and James Hart of Haines has raised $100 from a single contributor.
All four Democrats combined have raised less money than Dimond, who has accumulated $52,839 and will not face an election test until November.
The contested primary in District 34 is between city councilman Rob Edwardson, who is running as an independent, and school board member Andi Story, who is running as a Democrat.
Edwardson, a former aide to incumbent Rep. Justin Parish, D-Juneau, has been in the race longer than Story, but Story has outpaced him in fundraising despite her later start. Story reported $29,900 in contributions to Edwardson’s $4,483.
Senate District Q, which covers both districts, does not have a contested primary election this year. City councilman Jesse Kiehl is running unopposed in the Democratic primary and will face independent candidate Don Etheridge.
Fundraising is not a perfect stand-in for who is ahead in an election or not. In 2016, for example, incumbent Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, raised much more money than Parish, who defeated her in the general election. It does, however, provide a window into the performance of a campaign and how it is being supported.
The biggest challenge facing most candidates is name recognition, and fundraising — which affords advertising, signs, buttons and stickers — helps candidates overcome that challenge. Even more important for House District 33 is travel.
“In this district, travel is my biggest expense, and as it gets closer to the election, direct mail is very effective, and all that stuff costs money,” Morphet said.
“Without trying much, I’ve spent almost $5,000 out of my pocket,” he said.
That kind of expense is a big deterrent for people running for office, and even if he wins the primary, he faces an even more expensive general election.
“To serve the public, you have to begin by raising $40,000-$50,000 in private funds,” he said, calling the idea counter-intuitive.
“It’s daunting, to say the least,” he said.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at email@example.com or 523-2258.