St. Paul mayoral candidates Melvin Carter and Pat Harris each raised about $130,000 from supporters in the past six weeks — far more than their competitors — as candidates race to get their messages out before Election Day.
The 10 candidates running for mayor had to submit campaign finance reports Tuesday detailing who donated to their campaigns and how they have been spending the money. The reports provide the final picture of campaign finances ahead of Nov. 7.
Behind Carter and Harris, Council Member Dai Thao reported $40,380 in fundraising since the last filing in September.
All three candidates have thousands of dollars in cash on hand to spend in the final two weeks: $108,842 for Carter, $73,865 for Harris and $66,448 for Thao. Carter and Harris, both former City Council members, noted that their recent influx of cash gives them momentum as they head into the final stretch.
“Neighbors from every ward, union members, small business owners and community leaders have stepped up and joined us in this effort to truly move St. Paul forward,” Harris said in a statement.
Carter said his meetings with numerous St. Paul residents early on in his campaign, when he asked people about their visions for St. Paul, are paying off now.
“Investing in deep grass-roots organizing and the neighbor-to-neighbor work that we’ve done gave us, as we came into the fall, a really strong ability to connect with folks,” he said.
Thao said he was not concerned about the difference in fundraising totals.
“I know that we work hard and we’re going to leave everything on the field,” he said.
Since the beginning of the campaigns, Carter has raised a total of more than $392,000 and Harris has received $421,450. Thao has raised about half as much as Harris. Candidates Elizabeth Dickinson and Tom Goldstein have both secured a total of more than $20,000 so far.
Over the past six weeks, more than half of Carter’s spending — about $40,000 — has gone to payroll costs. Thao’s report Tuesday shows he had comparatively low staff costs, and his biggest expense over the six weeks was printing and mailing campaign materials. Harris’ big-ticket expenses included mailers to residents and payments to political firms for consulting and fundraising work.
PAC and outside support
Political action committees have also had a financial role in the mayor’s race.
The St. Paul teachers’ union and the local council of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees donated a combined total of $60,000 to the PAC “People for Melvin Carter,” according to that PAC’s campaign finance filing this week. The committee has not reported any significant expenditures yet.
Another PAC called “Building a Better St. Paul” had not yet filed a report as of Tuesday afternoon. But as of the last filing due date in September, the PAC had $53,600 in contributions, with the bulk of the cash coming from organizations that endorsed Harris, including the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce PAC, St. Paul Police Federation and local Teamsters union.
The Minnesota Nurses Association PAC reported spending $1,000 to support Thao earlier this year. In Tuesday’s report the PAC noted no additional contributions.
A $1,000 donation is the maximum amount a candidate can accept from a committee or individual under state statute. However, PACs can spend unlimited amounts of cash in support of a candidate as long as that candidate isn’t accepting the money.
Thao said he challenges his opponents to “denounce” the groups that are spending more than $1,000 on the race.
“This is a municipal race and regular people should be at the forefront, not the special interests. Who are we working for?” Thao said.
Candidates have also been getting a lot of support from people who do not live in St. Paul. As of mid-September, about 70 percent of Thao’s donations and roughly half of Carter and Harris’ money was from outside the city.
The full scope of donations and spending won’t be clear until the week after the election, when candidates turn in another finance report.