John Munger dropped out of the 2010 governor’s race, saying he cannot compete with opponents who are getting millions of dollars in public financing for their campaigns.
Munger announced his decision on June 1, just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to strike down the matching funds provision of Arizona’s Clean Elections system. Munger said Clean Elections created an “uneven playing field” that filled his opponents’ war chests while deterring contributions to his campaign.
Lackluster fundraising and the Supreme Court’s ruling had Munger looking like the odd man out in a four-way race for the Republican nomination. Businessman Buz Mills has put at least $2 million of his own money into his campaign, and incumbent Gov. Jan Brewer and state Treasurer Dean Martin, both of whom are running for governor as Clean Elections candidates, will get matched for every one of those dollars.
“When we got in the race it was us, Brewer and Dean Martin. Nobody had ever heard of Buz Mills back in October,” Munger said of Mills and his millions not being in the race early on. “The only risk at the time I announced was that if matching funds were implemented they would only be triggered by if and when I was able to raise money in excess of the $700,000.”
Munger’s initial campaign finance report from late January showed that he had raised about $200,000, and by the time he dropped out five months later he said he had only raised about $325,000 total. He attributed his poor fundraising to Clean Elections, saying potential donors were discouraged by the likelihood that all three of his opponents would have significantly more money than him, no matter how much he raised.
“People are very concerned that I’m going to be out-financed by the taxpayer-funded campaign,” he said.
A May 1 campaign finance report showed that Mills, whose television ads have been running across the state for months, had spent about $1.8 million on the campaign. Mills’ most recent report had not yet been filed at the time Munger announced his withdrawal from the race, according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.
The withdrawal leaves Munger’s voters up for grabs in a three-way race between Brewer, Martin and Mills. Polls showed Munger taking as little as 3 percent of the GOP vote and as much as 14 percent. A May 20 poll from Rasmussen Reports showed Brewer with 45 percent, Martin and Mills tied at 18 percent and Munger in distant fourth place with 3 percent.
Munger said he had not considered whether he would endorse another candidate, though past statements would indicate that he is unlikely to back Brewer or Mills. He jumped into the race largely over opposition to Brewer’s push for a temporary sales tax increase and has made her the primary target of his campaign, and he called on Mills to drop out over a Florida judge’s ruling that he defrauded a business partner.
In a press statement, Martin said he admired Munger for his commitment to Arizona.
“John and I agree on so many issues. That’s why I applaud him for being willing to stand up for fiscal discipline and for working so hard to get Arizona back on track. I know this decision must have been a difficult one, but I want to personally thank him for his service,” Martin said.
Martin is running as a Clean Elections candidate despite being a plaintiff in the case against matching funds. He said the Clean Elections system is essentially rigged against candidates who run traditional campaigns against publicly funded opponents.