A juggernaut of an Alan Webber mayoral campaign that recently tallied endorsements from the mayors of both Santa Fe and Albuquerque took in roughly three times as much money as the rest of the candidates combined, according to finance reports filed Friday.
The campaign to top the five-person field in Santa Fe's first ranked-choice voting election, and to become the city's first full-time mayor, is emerging as a lopsided spending affair. Webber has tossed $150,000 towards a victory as the other candidates look to craft a strategy that will earn votes in lieu of cash and keep him from passing the 50 percent mark on March 6.
In-person absentee balloting has already begun, with early voting starting Feb. 14 and running for two and a half weeks.
City Council races are contested in three of the four districts, and most are publicly financed to the tune of $15,000. Campaigns didn't spend much during the two-week period since the initial financing report, stashing cash for the home stretch. The one whopper of an expenditure was from the lone privately financed candidate in a contested race, Signe Lindell, who spent more than $7,000 of her $33,000 on an out-of-state mailing and design company.
Webber took in nearly $53,000 in cash, pumping his campaign total—including in-kind donations such as food and drink for campaign events—to more than $276,000. The entrepreneur reported spending $63,000 in the last 15 days, mainly on campaign staff and mailers, which his filing made a point of noting were printed locally. Webber has more than $116,000 on hand and ready to spend.
"We think we're going to have more supporters from Santa Fe than the other privately-financed campaigns combined, which is really gratifying. My team has worked really, really hard and we couldn't be more pleased," Webber said in an emailed statement Friday evening. His finance report listed more than 200 individual contributions.
School board member and former economic development staffer Kate Noble took in more than 100 individual donations totaling $14,000. She's raised $87,000 in donations and in-kind gifts. That's less than a third of Webber's total, but while money helps get the word out, it doesn't guarantee votes. Noble has been spending more than she's taken in, though not by much. Most of her outlays over the past couple of weeks were for staff, consulting and radio ads. She has more than $23,000 on hand.
Ron Trujillo, the only candidate to both seek and qualify for $60,000 in public financing reported spending a bit more than $10,000 on locally printed brochures and a hefty outlay to a local company for an online advertising package. Trujillo has a lengthy campaign spot running on various websites. He reported $32,000 on hand. That's more than Noble, but he's been outspent by her so far.
District 2 councilor and mayoral candidate Joe Maestas took in less than $3,000 in the past couple of weeks, boosting his total to $35,000. He spent frugally, too, with $1,500 going to a Denver-based campaign manager and less than that on signs and other advertising. The engineer has a bit more than $6,000 on hand as he's spent to get the word out early. Maestas chose to forgo trying for public financing.
Fellow District 2 Councilor Peter Ives attempted to qualify for public money in his bid for mayor, but failed to get enough required donations. He's taken in $18,500 in total, with $1,100 coming in since the last reporting period. Ives didn't spend a cent during that time, according to his report, leaving him with $12,000 to use as the campaign enters its final few weeks.
Spending by non-candidate groups has so far been tame. While People for Santa Fe, a pro-Trujillo group funded by the soft drink industry, has gathered more than $12,000, it's spent less than $3,000 to pay a pollster.
Jeff Varela, the son of late Santa Fe lawmaker Lucky Varela, has formed a committee with $11,000 of his father's sizable campaign account from 2014. Only a few hundred dollars has been spent on a small newspaper add endorsing Trujillo, Marie Campos in District 1, Joe Arellano in District 2 and Eric Holmes in District 4. Varela's campaign account showed more than $40,000 at the last report, so there's a lot of money sitting on the sideline.
Webber was far and away the leader among mayoral candidates at the first turn in January. He collected more than $209,000 from a broad network of locals and out-of-state donors, including many connections from the business world. Webber co-founded Fast Company magazine and later sold it for a multi-million dollar return.
Council races are largely public financing affairs, meaning cash on hand will be important heading into the final weeks of the election, though strategy in spending thus far can build a base of support.
In District 2, all three candidates are running with $15,000 of public cash. Nate Downey has more than $12,000 left, with Joe Arellano and Carol Romero Worth each holding less than $7,000. A little more than half of Downey's spending in the past two weeks went to a Minnesota company for signs. Romero Wirth spent on design and advertising. Arellano's biggest expenditure was to a local printer for door flyers.
All three candidates in District 4 are publicly financed, too. JoAnne Vigil Coppler didn't spend a dime and has more than $11,500 ready to go. Eric Holmes was also frugal and has almost $6,000 left after spending most of his money early on printing campaign material at one of the promotional businesses he owns. Greg Scargall spent almost exclusively on Facebook ads and has just under $9,000 for the campaign's last few weeks.
District 1 Councilor Signe Lindell didn't raise any additional money in her race against Marie Campos. She paid $7,300 to a mail and design company in Virginia and has $15,000 on hand. Campos qualified for public financing and kept her expenditures trim. She has $6,200 left to put toward her campaign.
Roman Abeyta is unopposed in his District 3 race and has taken in about $1,300.