SALT LAKE CITY — The crowded Salt Lake City mayor's race has surpassed the $1 million mark, with eight candidates together reporting a sum total of more than $1.2 million raised since candidates began fundraising as early as last year.
Still in the lead is businessman David Ibarra, raking in the most donations of all the candidates and reporting more than $159,000 raised since February, according to the most recent financial reports released Monday night.
Add that to nearly $235,000 raised in the prior reporting period and Ibarra has raised a total exceeding $394,000 — making him the candidate with the most cash so far headed into the Aug. 13 primary.
Behind Ibarra, former state Sen. Jim Dabakis — who has been named a front-runner to advance out of the primary — raised more than $152,000 since February, bringing his total donations to more than $253,000. Next comes state Sen. Luz Escamilla, who took in more than $139,000 since she first began campaigning in March.
"It's proof that nobody's going to outwork me. Nobody," Ibarra told the Deseret News on Tuesday.
Ibarra, who is well-known in Democratic circles but otherwise unknown to the average voter — acknowledges he has a name recognition disadvantage, which spurred him to aggressively raise money early on.
Ibarra began fundraising with a big infusion of his own money, to the tune of $50,000, and his campaign has been largely funded by businesses, with several donating the maximum allowed under Salt Lake City's mayoral donation limit of $3,560. But among his 371 donations, Ibarra is also seeing smaller donations to the tune of $20 each.
"We've got a lot of enthusiasm," he said. "I feel that it's an indication we are picking up momentum, frankly. We've had a lot of encouragement from the very beginning, and that's not waning — it's getting better and better."
Ibarra has also spent the most money so far, reporting expenditures totaling more than $226,000 since February as the primary inches closer.
Behind Ibarra, Dabakis called his fundraising "terrific and energized," but also noted he's running a "very frugal campaign."
Dabakis said he isn't bothered Ibarra is outraising him — noting he hasn't spent as much, with nearly $170,000 still in the bank compared to Ibarra's $38,000. Dabakis, confident he'll survive the primary, said he's saving up for the general election.
Dabakis has also tallied the most individual donors, with 675 since he began campaigning. He also said he doesn't take money from PACs or lobbyists — adding he would tighten Salt Lake City campaign finance laws if he's elected mayor because "there's too much money sloshing around the system."
"The aim is to return the power back into the neighborhoods and away from all of these special interests," Dabakis said.
But Dabakis has also written checks from his own bank account for his campaign. This reporting period, he wrote a $30,000 check, adding to $58,000 he self-funded before February. Dabakis, an art dealer, said he self-funds because he will return money if it comes from special interests.
That additional $30,000 was because "my finance person said we've got to raise $30,000," Dabakis said, and he had to choose between "sitting in a closet asking rich people for money" or "go out into the neighborhoods, and for me that is a really easy decision."
Behind Dabakis, Escamilla — who was one of the last candidates to jump into the race — said her $139,000 so far proves she's running a truly "grassroots campaign." This reporting period, Escamilla reported 513 individual donations, nearly rivaling Dabakis' total donor count in just four months.
"We're absolutely not self-funded, so we can distinguish ourselves from multiple candidates in that sense," she said. "It just shows how we're reaching as many communities and groups as possible with our message, and that is a message of being inclusive and being a bridge builder."
David Garbett, former Pioneer Park Coalition executive director and an environmental attorney, comes next, raising more than $132,000 from 436 donors this period, bringing his contribution total to more than $243,000. He's spent more than $129,000 of that, with over $106,000 left in his account.
Garbett said he was "quite happy" with this quarter. He said even though he's "new" to politics, he's finding people from "all across the city and all across the state are willing to contribute to the vision I'm talking about for Salt Lake City."
Garbett's father owns Garbett Homes, one of Utah's largest homebuilders. Early on, Garbett took in maximum donations of $3,560 from family members and Garbett companies. This reporting period, Garbett continued to take in donations from family companies, but also got donations from a wider variety of people, including some small donations.
"I don't see it so much an issue of how do I rank compared to other candidates," Garbett said. "I'm (focused) on how do I get out to talk to voters because there are still so many people trying to make up their minds."
Salt Lake City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall comes next during this reporting period, raising more than $92,000 from 187 donors. Mendenhall surpassed Salt Lake City Councilman Stan Penfold, who took in more than $51,000, bringing his total to $77,000.
Penfold was still happy with his campaign's progress. He said in the three weeks in particular, his campaign has picked up speed, seeing a jump after the mayoral debate.
"You won't find any personal checks from myself," Penfold said. "No big-dollar or personal money in there, and I also don't have any PAC or special interest money. We feel good about that. We have lots of smaller donations from average people."
The remaining two candidates, Rainer Huck, a retired electrical engineer, and Richard Goldberger, a freelance journalist, are trailing behind other candidates as far as fundraising goes. Huck wrote a $10,000 check from himself, and Goldberger reported one $500 contribution.