Binkley tops candidates' money race with $351,568

Palin's gubernatorial campaign in second place with $100,657

Posted: Friday, February 17, 2006

Fairbanks Republican John Binkley's campaign has taken in $351,568 in a month and a half, giving him by far the largest war chest of any of the declared candidates in the 2006 Alaska governor's race.

Sarah Palin of Wasilla, Binkley's only declared Republican competitor in August's primary, was next in money raised, according to summaries of disclosure statements released Thursday by the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

Palin's campaign reported $100,657 in income between May 7 and Feb. 1.

The Republican field could get more crowded this month. Lt. Gov. Loren Leman says he plans to announce within a few days whether he is going to run.

Incumbent Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski still has not said whether he plans to run for re-election.

The two Democratic candidates for governor declared nearly equal amounts of money raised. Rep. Eric Croft, D-Anchorage reported taking in $75,160. House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage, raised $74,471.

Jeff Berliner of the Berkowitz campaign on Thursday said campaign officials informed APOC they planned to amend their report, adding another $5,000 leftover from Berkowitz's 2004 Alaska House campaign.

Independent Andrew Halcro of Anchorage, who started raising money later than the other hopefuls, has raised $5,550.

Candidates running for office this year had a Wednesday deadline to file their first campaign disclosure statements with APOC. The statements cover the money their campaigns have taken in since they filed their intent to run for state office until Feb. 1.

Leman did not name a specific day he would announce his plans. Running for governor or for the lieutenant governor's seat again are two of his options, he said.

The uncertainty of Murkowski's plans "has had an effect on the mix of my decisions, but ultimately, it comes down to a timing decision that Carolyn and I have talked about," Leman said of conversations he's had with his wife.

Binkley raised his money between Dec. 19 and Feb. 1. Over that period, he spent $48,845, most of that on television advertising, he said. His campaign moves ahead with $302,722 in cash.

Binkley said the great majority of that money came from fundraising; his only personal contribution has been in air travel.

"It's humbling, really, to have such overwhelming support," Binkley said. "We've exceeded our campaign goals."

Binkley last week resigned as chairman of the Alaska Railroad Corp. and has also stepped down from his obligations with his family's business, Riverboat Discovery Cruises, to focus on his campaign.

"The campaigning takes 100 percent of all of my time and effort," he said.

Palin's campaign on Wednesday reported spending $24,630, but amended that on Thursday to $27,400.

On Thursday, the former Wasilla mayor was at the Iron Dog snowmobile race supporting her husband and was unavailable for comment. Her campaign office released a statement attributed to Palin that said nearly 500 individuals had contributed to her.

"Other campaigns may depend heavily on large monetary contributions while ours will depend on thousands of Alaskans looking for real change," the statement read.

Croft has spent $11,999 and Berkowitz reported spending $39,595.

"I am at a level roughly where I thought I'd be and there's a long way to go," Berkowitz said.

As legislators, Berkowitz and Croft can't raise money themselves while in session, although both have campaign offices that continue to fundraise.

Croft said he doesn't consider the imbalance between the Democrats' and Republicans' fundraising to date to be much of a factor between August's primary and November's general election.

"Money is important in political campaigns, but ideas are important as well," Croft said. "I think we will have enough money to bring for Alaska voters the key issues of this campaign."

The wild card on the Democratic side is former Gov. Tony Knowles. The two-term governor has not said whether he plans to run a campaign, nor has he filed a letter of intent with the state that would allow him to begin raising money.

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