Outside groups have poured $147,388 into the state Senate race in Tucson's Legislative District 10, trying to oust incumbent Sen. Frank Antenori, a Republican.
That makes the race the fourth-greatest recipient of outside money among Arizona's 60 legislative general-election races. And it could make a difference in a race in which the candidates' own campaigns have each raised about the same amount.
Of that outside spending, about $128,960 went into mailings and other anti-Antenori efforts, an amount that ranks Antenori as the second-biggest recipient of outside opposition spending in the state. The remaining $18,428 in outside spending was by groups supporting Antenori's opponent, Democrat David Bradley.
As of Friday, no outside groups had spent money in favor of Antenori, or opposing Bradley.
Antenori said the spending shows his opponents are worried he could win a seat where Democrats have a voter-registration advantage.
"They've been polling, and the race is neck-and-neck. They can't believe I'm hanging on," Antenori said.
Legislative District 10 covers most of Tucson's east side and a strip of midtown, with its western boundary at Campbell Avenue.
Bradley said he is aware of the spending, but since laws prevent him from coordinating with outside groups, "I've deliberately kept more than an arm's length from it."
He said he didn't know of any recent polling in the race.
The biggest outside spender in the race has been an entity called Revitalize Arizona, which put $91,920 into the race.
Phoenix campaign-finance attorney Jim Barton called Revitalize Arizona "an independent expenditure committee that represents the interests of working families in Arizona."
"We think Bradley is a strong candidate and Antenori is a weak candidate," said Barton, who works for Phoenix Democrat Israel Torres' law and consulting firm.
Revitalize Arizona's funding comes largely from labor unions, Barton acknowledged, though he said details would come in the next state-mandated report.
The second-biggest spender has been an entity called Arizona Accountability Project, which has put $45,090 toward anti-Antenori efforts. The group's filings list Linda Somo, a retired Arizona Education Association official, as president.
Spokesman Robbie Sherwood would not detail the group's donors but said the project's aim is to elect moderate candidates.
"This is an effort to hold Frank Antenori accountable for his extremist actions at the Capitol. It's in everybody's best interest to try to moderate the Legislature," Sherwood said in an email.
The latest state-mandated reports, filed in late September, showed Bradley had raised about $45,000 and Antenori about $46,000.
Antenori suggested the spending is propping up Bradley's candidacy.
"I think I would have won this thing hands down if these guys hadn't come in here," he said.
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Where independent money goes
Top legislative races for independent spending:
District Area of state Amount
Senate District 18 Chandler area $380,957
Senate District 6 Northern Arizona $314,662
Senate District 26 Tempe/Mesa $158,715
Contact reporter Tim Steller at 807-8427 or firstname.lastname@example.org