State Rep. Daniel Hernandez is leading all Legislative District 2 candidates in fundraising and is getting a huge boost from outside interests that have more than doubled his campaign war chest.
Independent expenditures in support of his candidacy surpass the money he’s raised as of Friday and are greater than the amount his three Democratic primary competitors have raised combined.
Top supporters include Better Leaders, Better Arizona and Arizona Integrity PAC, both political action committees. As of Friday, more than $137,000 in independent expenditures in support of Hernandez were made by 10 organizations, according to finance records. Independent expenditure supporters can spend as much money as they want to back a candidate but they cannot coordinate their efforts with the candidate or the candidate's campaign committee.
None of the other three Democrats in the race have received independent expenditure money.
Arizona Integrity PAC spent more than $40,000 on advertising in support of Hernandez and more than $138,000 in total on Democratic candidates this election cycle, according to campaign finance documents available on the Arizona Secretary of State website. Contributors to the PAC include Southwest Gas Corporation, Arizona Multihousing Association, Pinnacle West Capital Corporation and two PACs with pro-business ties — GPL Committee for Arizona Leadership and Responsible Leadership for AZ.
In 2018, Responsible Leadership for AZ spent about $203,000 in advertising support mainly for Republican candidates for state House and Senate, according to a pre-general election report.
Since then, the PAC received two cash infusions of $250,000 each from Realtors of AZ PAC and has spent $92,250 on polling, $2,260 on a signature review, and $60,000 in contributions to Arizona Integrity PAC this election cycle, and currently have more than $350,000 in cash on hand, according to reports.
Tom Farley, lead political strategist and lobbyist for the Arizona Association of Realtors, is listed as the treasurer of Responsible Leadership.
GPL’s treasurer, Cylee Gutting, is director of member engagement and community partnerships for Greater Phoenix Leadership, an organization of CEOs and company presidents whose board includes the presidents of the Arizona Cardinals and Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
It appears big money political players may be changing their strategy and pivoting toward Democratic candidates because of the gains the Democratic Party made in the 2018 election, when they won 29 seats to the Republicans' 31, shifting the power dynamic in the lower chamber. Republicans held 35 seats prior to the 2018 election.
Better Leaders received $202,500 from a group identified as Unite Arizona, which has the same address as League of United Latin American Citizens in Washington, D.C. Better Leaders’ points of contact did not respond to requests for comment on their support of Hernandez’s candidacy. State records show Better Leaders spent $49,000 in advertising on Hernandez and $274,592 in total on the current election.
Third for top outside supporter was the Environmental Defense Action Fund, based out of Washington, D.C., which spent nearly $34,000 in support of Hernandez, according to a report. The PAC has also made independent expenditures in support of six Republican candidates for the 2020 election, according to finance records.
Democrat Andrea Dalessandro’s total campaign income is second to Hernandez’s but she is running as a Clean Elections candidate. Clean Elections candidates agree to forgo special interest and high-dollar campaign contributions and must receive at least 200 individual contributions of five dollars from voters registered in the district. In exchange, these candidates receive set contributions from the Citizens Clean Elections Fund.
Democrat Luis Parra and Republican Deborah McEwen are also running as Clean Elections candidates.
Hernandez and Democrat Billy Peard are funding their campaigns traditionally. Traditional candidates do not face the same contribution limits as clean election candidates. Peard has raised $17,300 and spent $15,200.
Hernandez declined to respond to questions for this story.