Dunleavy leads early fundraising for Alaska governor’s race

a woman and man stand next to each other inside
Gov. Mike Dunleavy and former Department of Corrections Commissioner Nancy Dahlstrom are running as a team for governor and lieutenant governor in the 2022 election. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Incumbent Gov. Mike Dunleavy has raised more money than any other candidate in this year’s Alaska governor’s race over the past five months and is heading toward the Aug. 16 primary election with more cash in his campaign war chest than any other candidate.

Dunleavy, a Republican, reported raising $925,380 between Feb. 2 and July 15, according to new filings with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, and reported having $768,263 in cash on hand as of July 15, after expenses and debts.

Former Gov. Bill Walker, challenging Dunleavy as an independent, raised $831,896 between Feb. 2 and July 15, the second-most among the 10 candidates running for governor this year. His campaign reported having $751,299 in cash on hand.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that Bill Walker was leading – see the editor’s note at the bottom of this story for more information. 

Democratic candidate Les Gara reported raising $575,410 and had $655,876 in cash on hand. 

All three men are seeking to be among the top four finishers in the upcoming primary. During the primary election, voters will be asked to pick one candidate for governor. The four candidates who receive the most votes will advance to the November general election.

In November, voters will rank the four finalists in order of preference, and the winner will be sworn in for a four-year term.

Charlie Pierce, the Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor running for governor as a Republican, reported raising $64,193, while Christopher Kurka, a Republican state legislator from Wasilla, reported raising $12,423. No other candidate reported raising more than $3,000.

Campaign contributions are an indicator of a candidate’s support, but they are not directly correlated with victory. In 2020, independent U.S. Senate candidate Al Gross raised more money than incumbent Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan but lost the general election by more than 12 points.

Some political observers suggest the number of contributions, rather than the amount, may be a better indicator of success.

APOC records show Gara had the most individual contributions and the most from within Alaska, followed by Dunleavy and Walker, in order. 

All three of the biggest candidates benefited from the elimination of Alaska’s limits on political donations.

Gara’s campaign received $16,500 from Robin Brena, the Anchorage attorney who brought the legal case that erased Alaska’s limits. 

Dunleavy received $200,000 from his brother Francis and $100,000 from Bob Penney. Both were major backers of Dunleavy’s 2018 run for governor. Dunleavy also received $100,000 from Armand Brachman, a Minnesota man who Dunleavy’s campaign described as “a hunting and fishing buddy.”

“He doesn’t have any business interests in Alaska that we’re aware of,” said Andrew Jensen, a spokesman for the Dunleavy campaign.

Walker received three $100,000 donations from people outside Alaska. One was attributed to Jason Carroll of Hudson River Trading in New York City, another to Kathy Murdoch of New York City and the third to Greg Orman, an independent former politician in Kansas.

Orman also donated an opinion poll valued at $28,500 to Walker, making him the former governor’s top contributor. Orman unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate and governor in Kansas as an independent and has since supported candidates and causes who represent alternatives to the traditional Democratic-Republican power structure.

Murdoch is an author, the spouse of James Murdoch, one of the sons of News Corp. co-founder Rupert Murdoch. Kathy and James Murdoch are the founders of the Quadrivium Foundation, which supports efforts to reduce political polarization.

Carroll, initially identified incorrectly by the Walker campaign as a CNN journalist with the same name, is one of the founders of Hudson River Trading, which makes software used for stock trading.

In the 2018 Alaska governor’s race, third-party groups spent millions of dollars. Campaign finance disclosures between Feb. 2 and July 15 do not show large donations or spending by third-party groups in this year’s race. 

The Republican Governors Association previously donated $3 million to support Dunleavy’s re-election campaign, but that money has not yet been spent.

Editor’s note: This article has changed significantly since it was first published. The original version incorrectly stated that Walker had raised more money than Dunleavy, an assessment Dunleavy’s campaign agreed with at the time. The day after the article’s publication, Gara contacted the author, alerting him to a math error. Alaska campaign finance reporting requirements are different for governors running as individuals and governors running with a lieutenant governor candidate. Both Gara and Dunleavy added their running mates in the middle of the financial reporting period, resulting in two separate reports for each campaign. Those two reports were combined incorrectly in the initial version of this article, resulting in an artificially low contribution total for Gara and Dunleavy. Once corrected, that math showed Dunleavy had raised more money than Walker, resulting in a significant change to the article.

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: info@alaskabeacon.com. Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: info@alaskabeacon.com. Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and X.

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