In a five-way race for mayor that has been begging for some way to gauge the popularity of each candidate, the first campaign finance reports have provided that yardstick, and then some.
Alan Webber, the entrepreneur who co-founded Fast Company magazine and later sold it in a deal that earned hundreds of millions of dollars for him and his fellow investors, raised $209,000. All but $5,000 came from individual donors.
Webber raised more than his four opponents combined.
Kate Noble, the former journalist, city staffer and entrepreneurial advocate, took in nearly $63,000. Current District 2 city councilors Joseph Maestas and Peter Ives raised almost $28,000 and $17,000, respectively.
District 4 City Councilor Ron Trujillo was the only candidate to collect the 120 donations of $5 each from city voters needed to access $60,000 in public financing for the race.
Seven of the nine candidates running for City Council seats qualified for public financing. Read more about their sending here.
Several big names maxed out their contributions to Webber at the legal limit of $2,500 each, including prominent local progressive operatives Carol Oppenheimer and Morty Simon (Texas tech tycoon and former partner with H Ross Perot), Mort Meyerson, and SFR co-owner Richard Meeker, who lives in Portland, Oregon. Meeker went to college with Webber and the two have remained friends. (Meeker has no editorial control at SFR.) Business owners in places like Albuquerque, Miami Beach, Washington, DC, California, New Jersey and Minnesota also gave the maximum $2,500 contributions to Webber.
In a statement emailed Thursday evening, Webber said he was gratified by his mammoth totals and claimed he'd raised 62 percent of his money in Santa Fe. He has $127,000 on hand, more than double what anyone else in the race has raised.
"We're doing things a little differently from some previous campaigns for mayor of Santa Fe," Webber said. "We hope and expect voter turnout will be high, as it has been in every election around the country since Trump was elected. That means we're reaching out to listen to and talk with far more voters than previous mayoral campaigns have done. And we're doing that throughout the entire city, not just in certain neighborhoods."
Webber has already spent almost $82,000 on his campaign. A sizable portion of that money was spent locally, though $20,000 went to DC-area polling and research outfit Third Eye Strategies, which focuses on Democratic candidates. More than $7,000 went to Stripe, an Irish online payment processing company with US headquarters in San Francisco. The company is backed by PayPal co-founder and noted media opponent Peter Thiel, who provided money for ex-pro wrestler Hulk Hogan as he sued the website Gawker into insolvency. Webber also paid to $3,500 for brochures to an Austin, Texas, company and $2,900 to print yard signs in Kentucky.
Most of Noble's largest contributions came from women. UNM physician Christina Price, attorney Ocean Munds-Dry and local businesswoman Kimberly Corbitt, all gave the biggest contributions allowed at $2,500. Corbitt recently penned an editorial criticizing Alan Webber's idea for a women's advisory panel as trying to co-opt the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Sallie Bingham, a local writer, gave $2,000. Noble's mother, Elise, gave more than $2,000.
Noble spent almost all of the $37,000 she's shelled out so far in Santa Fe. Her expenditures also listed $1,025 to Del Norte Credit Union with the note "returned check/NSF fee." Noble reported having $26,000 on hand.
Trujillo reported spending a bit more than $17,000, with his major expenses listed to local companies for online and print advertising, as well as $4,800 for signs to the same online campaign material company based in Kentucky that Webber used.
Among those who gave $1,000 or more to support Maestas are Mark Suleiman, of the downtown jewelry store Diva Diamonds; Michael Olivas, a college professor in Houston; the Montgomery and Andrews firm; Conroad Associates LP (Geronimo Restaurant); Zia Estates LLC; and Paisano Inc.
The Realtors Association of New Mexico is spending big in the election, maxing out with $2,500 donations to Maestas, Noble and Webber. Only Ives failed to garner monetary support from the group.
Of Maestas' contributions from outside city voting area, he got support from civil engineer colleagues from across the nation, people in Albuquerque and a handful of supporters from Española, where he was formerly a city councilor and mayor.
Among his largest expenditures were $14,310 with Voter Research out of Los Alamos.
Ives and his wife Patricia Salazar-Ives donated $2,400 each to Ives' campaign, and Pat Salazar gave $2,500. Suntek Industries and Western Services each gave $1,000. His largest purchases so far amount to $3,596 worth of campaign signs from Resolution Graphics in Albuquerque.
In 2014, each of the three mayoral candidates—Javier Gonzales, Patti Bushee and Bill Dimas—qualified for public financing. Two separate political advocacy groups spent roughly that amount advocating for Gonzales as well. Campaign finance rules prohibit coordination between candidate campaigns and groups such as the two—Santa Fe Working Families and Working America—that were active in 2014. Gonzales won with 43 percent of the vote. So far in this election cycle, no such groups have reported with the city.
There are 40 days left before the March 6 election. Campaigns have to submit their next report in just over two weeks, on Feb. 9.
The last day to register to vote is Feb. 6. Absentee voting begins Jan. 30 and early voting runs from Valentine's Day to Friday, March 2.