Heading into the final 10 days of Philadelphia's primary race for mayor, new campaign-finance reports show Dwight Evans and Michael Nutter best positioned in terms of money to spend, with Nutter claiming that he raised four times as much as Evans in the last week alone.
If true, that would give Nutter a significant boost over all but millionaire businessman Tom Knox, whose self-financed campaign appears to be stalled in the polls as Nutter's continues to surge.
Knox has poured nearly $9 million into his race, including $3 million since January - all money that he has transformed from a giant loan into an outright donation. Also, Knox raised an additional $800,000 from supporters.
Thanks largely to Knox's largesse, the total amassed by the five main Democrats in the May 15 primary is just shy of $20 million.
"I can't say I'm surprised by it," said Zack Stalberg, president of the campaign watchdog group Committee of Seventy, noting Knox's well-known personal contributions. "I'm a little surprised, I guess, that the four others didn't total a little bit more than that."
In the last contested Democratic primary, in 1999, the five major Democratic candidates had, by this point in the campaign, raised $12.1 million.
The new reports indicated that the candidate with the weakest financial showing was Chaka Fattah, who had $210,843 on hand as of Monday - less than half of what Evans and Nutter had in the bank at that time. Fattah has trailed his rivals in fund-raising for most of the race.
The cash-in-hand figures are significant because they show the extent to which candidates can press their cases with voters in the waning days of the campaign.
The numbers were contained in campaign-finance reports filed yesterday, covering the period from Jan. 1 through Monday.
The reports show Nutter raked in $1.7 million in the first four months of this year, and in total had amassed $3.4 million. Only Bob Brady raised more - $2 million - in that period. Evans raised $1.4 million, and Fattah $1.3 million.
Whereas Brady collected his money in about 1,000 individual donations, Nutter, as well as Evans, showed a much broader base of support in terms of contributors, with each listing over 4,000 individual donations. That difference was apparent in the several-inches-thick paperwork submitted by Nutter and Evans.
The lone Republican candidate, Al Taubenberger, reported raising $14,000, with all but $3,000 of it still in the bank.
With the campaign drawing to a close, it is vital for candidates to raise cash to fund get-out-the-vote efforts on May 15. At the same time, all the candidates have spent the bulk of their money on TV, and political experts anticipate they will continue to buy air time in the remaining days.
Mayoral candidates can "easily spend $500,000 to $1 million on election day activities," Mayor Street said. That money typically goes to ward leaders to pass out to their committee people, and is used to purchase T-shirts, meals, and transportation to take voters to the polls, as well as other campaign paraphernalia.
But given the small sums of cash on hand, Street predicted that apart from Knox, "nobody will have that kind of money."
Fattah, for one, shrugged off concerns about his lack of cash. "It's not the might of the money, it's the power of the people," he said.
Like his rivals, Fattah is still raising money, with the most recent records showing he had pumped another $85,000 into his campaign in the last few days.
By contrast, Nutter's campaign said it had collected about $400,000.
In his report, Nutter listed donations from a range of supporters, including powerful players in the city's legal and business communities. For instance, among those who gave $5,000 - the maximum individual donation permitted under the city's new law - were developers Carl Dranoff and Daniel Neducsin.
Among Evans' larger contributors were several of his Harrisburg colleagues, including Reps. H. William DeWeese ($10,000) and William F. Keller ($15,000). Evans also loaned himself $20,000, while donating another $20,000 from his legislative political committee.
Two weeks ago, a national payday lending company, Advance America, donated $20,000 to Evans, but campaign spokesman Tim Spreitzer said that money would be returned.
"Given the focus on payday-lending practices in this campaign, we felt it was not a contribution we wanted to accept," said Spreitzer, referring to critics who have attacked Knox for once running a bank that made payday loans.
Brady, a former carpenter, showed significant backing from fellow tradesmen; his report listed 46 separate contributions from labor unions. Of those, nine came from nationwide affiliates of the carpenters union, including those in Los Angeles, Washington and New York City.
That money accounted for much of the $621,620 Brady raised from political action committees since January. In total, he raised $2 million in that time.
Though it filed a report with the city's Board of Ethics, the Knox campaign failed to file a separate copy, as required, with the Board of Elections. The campaign will be fined $40, said election-document specialist Timothy A. Dowling of the City Commissioners Office.