Lopsided fundraising in races for Pima County Board of Supervisors

In this year’s race for the Pima County Board of Supervisors, only a handful of candidates have raised significant amounts of money for their campaigns.

In District 3, where there is an open seat because Democrat Sharon Bronson resigned last year and her appointed replacement, Syliva Lee, is not running for the position, Jennifer Allen is way out ahead of the other three Democrats competing in the July 30 primary.

In the first three months of the year, Allen raised $34,268, bringing her total fundraising haul to $84,736. Allen, who previously worked at the League of Conservation Voters and the Arizona ACLU, drew many contributions from members of the political, environmental, nonprofit and legal communities, according to first-quarter fundraising reports that were due this week.

Some of Allen’s top contributors are former Pima Community College Boardmember Demion Clinco ($1,000), law professor Andy Silverman ($500), immigration lawyer Maurice Goldman ($600), Tucson City Councilman Kevin Dahl ($500), former Southern Arizona congressman Ron Barber ($500) and homeless advocacy nonprofit Primavera CEO Tamara Prime ($500).

Allen ended the fundraising quarter with $53,241 on hand after spending $25,472.

By comparison, Edgar Soto, a vice president at Pima Community College’s Desert Vista campus, reported raising $5,575 and had $968 left in his campaign account at the end of the quarter. Soto received mostly small contributions. His largest donors included La Frontera CEO Dan Ranieri ($250) and El Charro restaurateur Ray Flores ($250).

Former Tucson Unified School District Boardmember Miguel Cuevas (who served 2009-2012, when he fell short in a reelection bid) has been self-funding his campaign. He reported raising and spending $4,789, with the bulk of it coming from his own wallet in the form of in-kind contributions.

Cuevas said he would continue to self-fund and expected to spend at least $35,000.

“I plan on contributing and loaning the necessary funds to my campaign to win the primary,” Cuevas said. “In addition, there will be some traditional fundraising.”

The fourth candidate in the race, April Ignacio, told the Sentinel she hadn’t started fundraising or spending money before the end of the quarter so she had nothing to report.

Ignacio works for the tribal housing agency O’odham Ki:ki Association and co-founded Indivisible Tohono, a grassroots progressive group that encourages civic involvement.

The winner of the District 3 race will face Republican Janet “JL” Wittenbraker in the Nov. 5 general election.

Wittenbraker, who made her political debut last year when she captured 32 percent of the vote in a race for Tucson mayor, reported raising $9,412. She had spent $7,592, leaving her with $1,820.

District 3 includes parts of central Tucson and Marana, the community of Three Points, the Tohoho O’odham reservation, Ajo, Lukeville and federal reserves such as Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge.

Democrats make up 36 percent of voters, while 28 are registered Republicans and 36 percent are not registered with either major political party.

The money race in District 1 is similarly lopsided. Supervisor Rex Scott has raised $108,116, including $73,635 this quarter. He has spent $15,506, leaving him with more than $92,000 on hand.

“I’m very gratified by the support,” Scott said. “We have a positive record of achievement and service to run on. This strong performance gives us a solid foundation to use for getting out message out across District 1.

Political newcomer Jake Martin, who is challenging Scott in the Democratic primary, raised $710 in the quarter. He has raised a total of 988 and spent $952, leaving him with $21 in the bank. Martin received $500 from Lori Swaim, listed on campaign documents as a manager at Roche, and $225 in aggregate contributions of $100.

Martin said he was running a “low-cost” campaign.

“Unlike both of my opponents, I have been very clear that I will turn down all donations from PACs, corporations, businesses, business owners, and others with a stated interest in the result of the election,” said Martin, a UA college student who has launched a nonprofit to assist victims of sexual assault. “I also turn down large-dollar-amount contributions from individuals. From the beginning, my campaign has been for the people of this community. Once I’m elected, I intend to represent the interests of our community, not the interests of those who paid to get me into office.”

Republican Steve Spain, who will face the winner of the Democratic primary, raised $6,268 this quarter. He started the quarter with $1,791 and spent $1,098, leaving him with $6,962.

Spain, who lost to Scott in 2020 by 730 votes, received his largest contribution from former District 1 Supervisor Ally Miller, who has given him $4,000. He also received an $1,800 contribution from the Freedom Works PAC, which is not affiliated with the national FreedomWorks organization.

District 1, which includes Oro Valley, parts of Marana, the Casas Adobes area and the Catalina Foothills, is a classic swing district, as 35% of voters are registered Democrats, 33% are registered Republicans and 32% are not registered with either party.

District 2 Supervisor Matt Heinz entered the year with $4,605 in the bank and raised $4,065, leaving him with $8,670 in his campaign account.

Heinz reported only six contributions and five of them came between March 26 and March 29 from people associated with the late Don Diamond’s real estate empire, including William Kelley of Diamond Ventures ($1,000),, Priscilla Storm ($750) and Mark Weinberg ($500) of Diamond Realty, Diamond Ventures President David Goldstein ($1,000) and Diamond’s daughter Helaine Levy ($1,000). 

Heinz reported no expenditures.

Two Republicans want to challenge Heinz this year in Democratic-leaning District 2, which stretches from Midtown Tucson to Sahuarita.

Beatrice Cory Stephens, who is making her political debut, had raised $5,701 and had spent $1,137, leaving her with $4,564 in the bank. Stephens’ top contributor was the Freedom Works PAC, which kicked in $1,800. Miller, the former District 1 supervisor, also kicked in $500. Stephens’ other contributions were $100 or less.

The other Republican in the race, John Backer, said he was late filing his report because of technical challenges.

In District 4, Supervisor Steve Christy, the sole Republican on the Board of Supervisors, reported entering the quarter with $31,817 and raising $1,725. Christy had spent $950, leaving him with $32,592 for his campaign.

His Democratic challenger, tourism executive Vanessa Bechtol, raised $7,030 after entering the race in March.

District 4 includes Tucson’s East Side, Mount Lemmon, Vail, Saguaro National Park East, Green Valley, Corona de Tucson and the La Cienega National Conservation Area. It’s Pima County’s only GOP-leaning district, with 36% of voters registered with the GOP, 31% registered with the Democratic and 33% registered with neither party.

In District 5, Supervisor Adelita Grijalva started the year with $7,109 and reported raising $3,950 in the first quarter. She spent $1,799, leaving her with $9,260 in the bank. Her largest contributions came from developer Tom Warne ($3,500), Demion Clinco ($1,250), Azhar Dabdoub ($2,000) and Raul Aguirre ($1,000).

A search of county records did not yield a fundraising report or a statement of organization for the campaign of TUSD Boardmember Val Romero, who is running as an independent against Grijalva. Romero did not return a message asking for further details.

For more information on the this year’s campaign, visit the Tucson Sentinel Election Guide.