With less than a month to go before the state primary, candidates for the Ketchikan and Wrangell seats in the Alaska legislature are filing their first campaign disclosure reports. The incumbents of the House of Representatives and Senate have a leading role in fundraising.
MP Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan) wants to keep his seat in the newly drawn District 1. The area includes Ketchikan, Wrangell, Metlakatla, Hyder, Saxman and the parishes of Coffman Cove and Whale Pass on Prince of Wales Island.
Oritz told Alaska’s campaign finance monitor, the Alaska Public Office Commission, that he raised $16,424 between Feb. 2 and July 15. About $5,899 of that is self-funded — things like signs, banners, plane tickets and newspaper ads that he bought with his own money. He says the campaign is going well at this early stage.
“I’m encouraged — I don’t have too much of a problem fundraising at all,” Ortiz said in a phone interview. “I don’t see an upsurge in anti-Ortiz sentiment out there, on social media or anywhere else, so I think it’s going pretty well.”
Outside donations to Ortiz’s campaign average $300 each, with approximately 40% coming from donors who listed their home address outside of the district.
Almost all of the money outside the district comes from organizations — the NEA-Alaska labor groups and the Teamsters have pledged a total of $1,500 to Ortiz’s campaign. And two dental organizations — the Anchorage-based Alaska Dental Society and Dentists of Alaska PAC — each contributed $1,000.
“The Alaska Dental Society, of course, includes local dentists who are part of that organization, and they certainly wouldn’t have received that kind of validation, listening, and support from local dentists, which I’m happy to do. I have local support because my teeth are very important to me.
Ortiz had just under $16,000 to spend on July 15. He says he raised about $70,000 in total during his last campaign and is aiming to raise a similar amount during this year’s election cycle.
Republican challenger and Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly member Jeremy Bynum reports donations of $12,878. The vast majority — save for $364 — came from Bynum himself, including a $10,000 check to launch his campaign and a variety of purchases he made with his own money. Bynum says he’s still working on getting his fundraising machinery up and running.
“Overall I think things are going well. We’ve had many calls and emails from people telling us they’d like to support the campaign,” Bynum said over the phone. “It just takes some time trying to get those mechanisms in place so they can do that adequately.”
The posts so far average about $60 each. All of Bynum’s reported donors to date are individuals with addresses in the Ketchikan area. Bynum says he’s happy to have some small-dollar support, but is open to larger contributions.
“I haven’t really been out there trying to lobby for big donors or organizations that are providing funds at the time. Of course, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t look for that kind of support when it comes from groups that support my ideals,” he said.
Bynum had about $10,000 in stock as of July 15.
Wrangell cargo pilot Shevaun Meggitt has signed on as non-partisan but has withdrawn from the race. In an emailed statement, Meggitt says she is ending her campaign and supporting Bynum over unexpected personal issues.
In the race for Senate District A, Senator Bert Stedman (R-Sitka) raised $21,500 between February 2nd and July 15th. Stedman says he is just beginning his re-election campaign.
“It’s still early, especially along the coast – the tourism season is in full swing with our visitors, we have the fishing season in full swing. People are busy with work,” Stedman said. “The campaign will slowly gain momentum and accelerate into November.”
Except for $500, all donations raised so far have come from donors outside of the district.
Stedman’s 23 listed donors averaged more than $900 per donor, including $14,500 from seafood industry executives and managers. He says much of it came from a recent fundraiser in Washington state.
“The fish processing industry is mostly outside of Alaska, mostly in Seattle. And that’s just because of the economics of the industry itself. The fishermen are obviously spread all over the coast,” Stedman said.
He says he plans to hold an event with fishermen at the end of the summer season.
Stedman also plans to hold fundraisers in Juneau and Anchorage in addition to events in his district, which includes coastal communities from Yakutat to Sitka to Petersburg and Ketchikan.
“As a senator, you represent the whole state,” he said. “You represent a district, but you’re a senator. And all my years in the Senate, particularly dealing with the finance table (as co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee), have dealt mostly with statewide issues.”
According to the report, Stedman has $23,441 in his campaign account.
His only challenger, Petersburg handyman and Republican Mike Sheldon, raised $2,410 between February 2 and July 15. All of this came from individuals who averaged about $100 each.
About half come from outside the district. Sheldon also poured $500 of his own money into his campaign. It sits at $871 in mid-July. Sheldon says he wants to increase donations as the election approaches.
“Campaign funds have been coming in – not a huge flow, as you can see in my APOC report I just filed,” Sheldon said. “It will increase, I’m sure of it.”
The state primary is scheduled for August 16th. With fewer than four candidates in each race, all are expected to advance from the pick-one primary to the Nov. 8 ranked general election.