Parnell, Berkowitz hold fundraising leads

Posted: Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Incumbent governor Sean Parnell and Democratic challenger Ethan Berkowitz are holding fundraising leads in their respective primaries, according to campaign finance reports made public Tuesday by the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

The most intriguing races, though, may be the two major party lieutenant governor races, where deep-pocketed challengers are hoping to win the state's second-highest office with their own money.

Candidates trying to use their own wealth to make up for a lack of statewide name recognition have spent nearly $800,000 of their own money trying to get their messages out to the electorate.

In the governor's race, Valdez natural gas pipeline advocate Bill Walker has chipped in $185,000 of his own money to boost his fundraising. He and former House Majority Leader Ralph Samuels are facing an uphill battle to unseat incumbent Parnell.

Lieutenant Governor candidate Jay Ramras, well known in Fairbanks as owner of Pike's Waterfront Lodge, as well as a a three-term state legislator has spent $120,000 of his own money raising his profile statewide.

He's facing Mead Treadwell, a businessman and former state and federal official who has chipped in $288,000 of his own to make himself a viable candidate.

The third candidate in the Republican lieutenant governor race, former talk radio host Eddie Burke, is far behind. He appears to have stopped fundraising, and has only $3,200 on hand, and $1,000 of that is his own money.

Those who are raising less money are still trying to make the numbers look as good as possible.

Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, the only sitting legislator running for governor, was barred by legislative rules from fundraising in Juneau during the session.

His campaign pointed out that French "had a higher daily fundraising average" during the time during which he could raise money.

"While I was working in Juneau, my opponent had a 90-day advantage in fundraising," French said Tuesday.

French's rival, Ethan Berkowitz not only leads in fundraising, but has twice the cash on hand for the final push to the primary.

Incumbent Gov. Parnell hasn't had to self-finance his race and holds a strong fundraising edge. His campaign put out a statement saying that fundraising prowess was "positioning him to win the Republican Primary on August 24."

One of his Democratic challengers was less impressed, however.

"I'm amazed that a sitting governor would only have $124,000 available," said Jon Blair, campaign staffer for Berkowitz.

In the Democratic primary, Diane Benson, who has run previous statewide races, was out distancing newcomer Powers in fundraising, but found herself with an opponent who didn't need to fundraise at all.

J.J. "Jack" Powers is a 68-year-old Anchorage-area bingo and lottery owner who said on his website he is "not a hard line" party person and has supported both Democrats and Republicans. He said he enjoys listing to Dan Fagan on the radio, and watching Bill O'Reilly on television.

Powers was able to chip in $200,000 of his own money, but had almost no other fundraising. His spending so far has dwarfed Benson's, and he has six times the money on hand than she does for the final month of the primary campaign.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@

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