From left, Dave Carey, Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings, Zach Hamilton and Peter Micciche participate in a Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor candidate forum on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

From left, Dave Carey, Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings, Zach Hamilton and Peter Micciche participate in a Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor candidate forum on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Cash pours into borough mayoral race

Campaign disclosure reports filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission show that tens of thousands of dollars have flowed into the race

With less than a week to go until the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s special mayoral election, campaign disclosure reports filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission show that tens of thousands of dollars have flowed into the race.

Peter Micciche has raised more than $37,000, while the next-highest fundraiser, Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings, has raised more than $17,000 in contributions since their campaigns kicked off. Farnsworth-Hutchings has reported thousands of dollars in expenditures to Winfluence, a strategic firm in Anchorage.

David Carey and Zachary Hamilton, who are also running for mayor, haven’t actively fundraised for their campaigns.

The Alaska Public Offices Commission requires political candidates to report itemized lists of the campaign contributions and expenditures at specified intervals leading up to whatever election they are participating in.

Micciche said Wednesday that he started his campaign with $10,000 in funds left over from his most recent Alaska Senate bid, which he transferred last summer into a “future campaign account” and then in November to a “Micciche for KPB Mayor” account.

Micciche raised nearly $16,000 in contributions between Jan. 7 and Jan. 13, which included a $5,000 loan from himself that was repaid in February. He received additional contributions totalling more than $20,000 between Jan. 14 and Feb. 4.

Reflected in those who have contributed financially to Micciche’s campaign are more than 50 occupations, ranging from attorneys and boat captains to retirees and realtors. The contributions have come from most major communities on the Kenai Peninsula and from some communities in other parts of the state.

“The spectrum of support for my campaign is fascinating,” Micciche said Wednesday.

From political action committees, Micciche has also received $500 from the Public Safety Employees Association’s PAC, $250 from the Alaska Public Employees Association PAC and $1,000 from the Public Employees Local 71 Political League Candidate Fund.

In his bid for borough mayor, Micciche said his fundraising strategy has pivoted somewhat from when he last ran for office in 2018. For one, he said he’s put more energy in social media advertising — particularly on Facebook.

Micciche pushed back on the idea that taking campaign funds from a particular group means that group will receive special consideration if the candidate they support is elected. He views financial support from specific groups as their way of saying that they think he is the best person for the job.

“If you feel like you will be influenced by a campaign contribution, you should not receive them,” Micciche said.

He said he hasn’t had trouble raising money this election cycle, but that he’s been telling people looking to contribute that his campaign has sufficient funds leading up to the Feb. 14 election. Fundraising may pick back up again, Micciche said, if he advances to the borough’s runoff election.

Farnsworth-Hutchings has raised more than $17,000 since she began campaigning for the special mayoral election. That includes more than $10,000 raised between Oct. 26, 2022, and Jan. 13, 2023, and more than $6,000 raised between Jan. 14 and Feb. 4. She started the campaign with about $2,000 and contributed $3,000 of her own money in January.

A majority of the more than 50 people who have contributed to Farnsworth-Hutchings’ campaign are retirees, representing communities from around the Kenai Peninsula and other parts of Alaska. The diversity of who has contributed to her campaign, she said, is a testament to how many people she knows from having lived in the community for so long.

Farnsworth-Hutchings said Tuesday that she is “feeling good” about where her campaign is at financially, although raising money has not been her top priority. She said she’s used to being the “underdog” when it comes to fundraising during political campaigns, and said what really counts is who ultimately shows up to the ballot box.

“You can’t really count it unless you get it,” Farnsworth-Hutchings said of financial contributions. “It’s the votes that count.”

The other two candidates who filed to run for the borough mayor position have not fundraised during their campaigns. Carey has said explicitly that he is not accepting campaign contributions for the current election cycle, whereas Hamilton said all the money he’s put into his campaign has come from himself.

Hamilton said Tuesday that he completed the Alaska Public Offices Commission’s Municipal Exemption Form, which exempts candidates who do not intend to raise or spend more than $5,000 through their campaign from having to file campaign disclosure reports.

Hamilton, the co-owner of Brothers Cafe in Kenai, said he opted not to fundraise for his campaign because of the abbreviated election cycle and because he works in a customer-facing role.

“I didn’t want to do anything that would jeopardize that,” Hamilton said Tuesday.

In an email on Wednesday, Hamilton said he also knew he couldn’t compete with the resources of more established candidates. That’s on top of not wanting to deal with the administrative paperwork that goes along with reporting through APOC, and not wanting to appear beholden to any one contributor.

“I didn’t want to seem bought,” Hamilton said.

Carey also cited the shortened election window as part of the reason he did not actively fundraise for his campaign. He said Tuesday that he raised more than $64,000 the last time he ran for borough mayor, for which he campaigned for more than a year and a half.

Because voters will only cast ballots for one race as part of the special election, Carey said he also hasn’t been worried about competing with other candidates for signage real estate.

“Since this is the only race going on, having to put lots of signs out didn’t seem to make sense,” Carey said.

A fifth candidate, Robert Wall, is running as a write-in candidate for the seat. He reported raising about $6,000 between Jan. 14 and Feb. 4, which includes a $5,000 contribution from his wife, Renae.

Full campaign disclosure reports can be found on the Alaska Public Offices Commission website.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to say that Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings is the only candidate to have spent consulting services from Winfluence.

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