With just about a month to go before the state primary election, candidates for Ketchikan and Wrangell’s seats in the Alaska Legislature are filing their first campaign disclosure reports. House and Senate incumbents have a lead in fundraising.
Rep. Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan) is looking to hang on to his seat in the newly-redrawn District 1. The area includes Ketchikan, Wrangell, Metlakatla, Hyder, Saxman and the Prince of Wales Island communities of Coffman Cove and Whale Pass.
Oritz told Alaska’s campaign finance monitor, the Alaska Public Office Commission, he’s raised $16,424 in contributions between Feb. 2 and July 15. Some $5,899 of that is self-funding — things like signs, banners, plane tickets and newspaper ads he bought with his own money. He says the campaign is going well during this early phase.
“I’m encouraged — I’m not having too much of a problem at all fundraising,” Ortiz said in a phone interview. “I’m not recognizing any upswell of anti-Ortiz sentiment out there, either on social media or anywhere else, so I think it’s going pretty well.”
Outside contributions to Ortiz’s campaign average $300 apiece, with about 40% coming from donors who listed their home addresses outside the district.
Almost all of that out-of-district money comes from organizations — labor groups NEA-Alaska and the Teamsters pitched in a total of $1,500 for Ortiz’s campaign. And two dental organizations — the Anchorage-based Alaska Dental Society and Dentists of Alaska PAC — chipped in $1,000 each.
“The Alaska Dental Society, of course, includes local dentists who are part of that organization, and certainly wouldn’t have received that kind of endorsement, listening and support from local dentists, which I’m glad to do. I have local support, because my teeth are really important to me.
Ortiz had just shy of $16,000 on hand as of July 15. He says he raised a total of about $70,000 during his last campaign and is looking to take in a similar amount during this year’s election cycle.
Republican challenger and Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly Member Jeremy Bynum reports $12,878 in contributions. The vast majority — all but $364 — comes from Bynum himself, including a $10,000 check to kick-start his campaign and a variety of purchases he made with his own money. Bynum says he’s still working on getting his fundraising apparatus up and running.
“Overall, I think it’s going well. We’ve gotten a lot of phone calls and people emailing to say that they would like to support the campaign,” Bynum said by phone. “It just takes some time to try to get those mechanisms in place so that they can adequately do that.”
Contributions so far average about $60 apiece. All of Bynum’s reported donors so far are individuals with addresses in the Ketchikan area. Bynum says he’s glad to have some small-dollar support but he’s open to larger contributions.
“I’ve not really been out there trying to advocate for large donors or organizations that provide funding at this point. That doesn’t mean that, obviously, I wouldn’t look for that kind of support if it’s from groups that support my ideals,” he said.
Bynum had about $10,000 on hand as of July 15.
Wrangell cargo pilot Shevaun Meggitt, filed to run as a nonpartisan but has pulled out of the race. In an emailed statement, Meggitt says she’s ending her campaign and endorsing Bynum because of unexpected personal issues.
In the race for state Senate District A, Sen. Bert Stedman (R-Sitka) raised $21,500 between Feb. 2 and July 15. Stedman says he’s just getting started with his reelection campaign.
“It’s early yet, particularly along the coast — we’ve got tourism season going full speed with our visitors, we’ve got fishing season in full swing. People are busy working,” Stedman said. “The campaign will start to slowly pick up the pace and accelerate through November.”
All but $500 raised so far comes from donors outside the district.
Stedman’s 23 listed donors averaged more than $900 apiece, including $14,500 from seafood industry executives and managers. He says much of that came from a recent fundraiser in Washington state.
“The fish processing industry is mainly outside of Alaska, mainly based in Seattle. And that’s just due to the economics of the industry itself. The fishermen, obviously, are spread out throughout the coast,” Stedman said.
He says he’s planning to hold an event with fisherfolk at the end of the summer season.
Stedman also plans to hold fundraisers in Juneau and Anchorage in addition to events within his district, which includes coastal communities stretching from Yakutat to Sitka to Petersburg and Ketchikan.
“As a senator, you represent the entire state,” he said. “You represent a district, but you’re a state senator. And all my years within the Senate, particularly dealing with the finance table (as co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee), mainly deals with statewide issues.”
Stedman has $23,441 in his campaign bank account, according to the report.
His lone challenger, Petersburg handyman and Republican Mike Sheldon, raised $2,410 between Feb. 2 and July 15. All of that came from individuals averaging about $100 each.
About half comes from outside the district. Sheldon also kicked in $500 of his own money toward his campaign. He’s sitting on $871 as of mid-July. Sheldon says he’s looking to ramp up donations as the election draws nearer.
“Campaign dollars have been coming in — not a huge flow, as you can see on my APOC report that I just submitted,” Sheldon said. “It’ll be picking up, I’m sure.”
The state primary election is scheduled for August 16. With fewer than four candidates in each race, all are expected to advance from the pick-one primary to the ranked choice general election on Nov. 8.