The Kari Lake campaign for governor continues its strong momentum, raising $1,462,115 in 2021 according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s campaign finance database. Two of her Republican opponents brought in more money, but both are funding their campaigns with millions of their own dollars. Steve Gaynor reported $5,009,655, which came almost entirely from his own funds, and Karrin Taylor Robson raised about the same amount as Lake, with almost another $2 million added of her own money. Matt Salmon brought in a little over a million.

Lake told The Arizona Sun Times, “I am thrilled by our fundraising. The pundits expected us to only raise $500,000. We raised nearly $1.5 million. Our swampy opponents hired up all of the political fundraisers in town in order to starve us from being able to raise money. But the people stepped up and made donations because they know in me, they have the first politician to run for governor who will truly represent the people of Arizona.”

Arizona political consultant Jason Rose, who is not working for any of the gubernatorial campaigns, told The Sun Times, “Kari Lake’s meteoric rise to a big lead in the GOP primary reminds me of JD Hayworth’s run for Congress in 1994. Hayworth, like Lake, was a quasi-celebrity among voters. Both were and are great retail campaigners too. Add to that Lake’s ability to speak [former President Donald] Trump without an accent as well as a dynamic and different social media presence. It has all snowballed into the most passionate voter allegiance since Joe Arpaio’s in the late 1990s.”

However, he had some caution. “Her only deficiency is fundraising. Her total was quite good but her burn rate is high. As her competitors take dead aim at her — they have and will — she is going to need great resources because relentless negative ads will take a toll on anyone.”

Arizona-based conservative consultant Constantin Querard, who is also not working for any gubernatorial candidates, did not see Lake’s fundraising numbers as very detrimental. “I’d ignore the spending numbers as an indication of anything,” he told The Sun Times. “At this stage, most campaign expenses are related to fundraising expenses, not voter messaging. The actual campaign hasn’t begun for anyone in this race yet when it comes to mailbox, online ads, TV and radio.”

Querard went on to explain why even though Lake has a high “burn rate,” it’s not because she’s not doing a good job raising money. Lake has spent a little over two-thirds of the money she’s raised. “The only thing worth studying on the spending side is the burn rate,” he said. “It is very low for a candidate like Gaynor who basically just wrote himself a check. It is much higher for candidates like Salmon and Lake who are spending money to raise money.”

Querard speculated as to Lake’s popularity, “She’s a household name who spent 20 years on the TV every single night, and she has President Trump’s endorsement, so it makes sense that she leads in polling right now.”

Political consultant Stan Barnes, who is the president of Copper State Consulting Group and a former Arizona state senator, told The Sun Times, “Once upon a time, the money race was the key indicator of success. That is no longer true. People who are focusing simply on fundraising numbers are fighting the last war. Things have changed. One thing that has changed is reaching voters is now less expensive than ever because of the advent of social media. Raw dollars to own local television and newscasts during the broadcast day have lost some of their potency. There is a mistake made by many that somehow more money equals more predictable success. Just not true nowadays in general politics.”

Barnes said Lake is the leading candidate in the race.

“The other thing is, it’s my opinion that any of the gubernatorial candidates on the Republican side, or even the Democratic side, would trade places with Kari Lake’s campaign today because she has what they are trying to buy,” he said. “She has name ID that is bigger and broader and more positively welcomed than any other candidate, Democrat or Republican. She has her own headstart on the very goal that money chases — that is positive name identification.”

Barnes distinguished Lake from her primary opponents, “She doesn’t need to match Robson or Salmon or Gaynor or candidate Z running for governor when it comes to a dollar race because she has a headstart on liability and name ID, and positive association with a broad spectrum of average voters. Kari’s already reached a great many voters. She’s accomplishing what more money would seek to accomplish.”

Robson’s fundraising has come into question by Democratic political campaign worker and staffer Tony Cani, who accused her of sending out misleading text messages. He tweeted, “Often the messages she uses are lies. For example, yesterday she texted saying Dems were trying to knock her TV ad off the air (false) and other texts make it look like donations will go to the GOP or Trump or TX Gov Greg Abbott?!”

Cani claims that Robson doesn’t have an organic list of voters to text, so she is either sending unsolicited text messages or using “an existing list of GOP donors one of her consultants owns.” He believes she is tricking people into becoming monthly contributors, not realizing the box is checked automatically to continue donating, and that is why she has a high level of refunds for a candidate.

Cani expressed his disgust with how Robson contrasted her number of donors to Lake’s donors.

On the Democratic side, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs raised almost $3 million last year in the gubernatorial race and spent about half of it. She is considered the frontrunner on the Democratic side but has been rocked by scandal after scandal, most significantly regarding a $2.75 million lawsuit awarded to a former staffer of hers over race and sex discrimination. Aaron Leiberman raised $1,161,943 and Marco Lopez raised $1,068,897.

Lake polled far ahead of her Republican opponents for much of the race, with more points than all of them combined. She was already wildly popular even before Trump endorsed her, and it is expected that with his support she will have no problem continuing to fundraise.

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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News NetworkFollow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Kari Lake” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 3.0. Background Photo “Arizona State Capitol” by Wars. CC BY-SA 3.0.