The gubernatorial race claimed its first victim Tuesday as Republican John Munger dropped out of the running.
Munger, in a prepared statement, said Tuesday decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to leave intact for now the matching funds provision of Arizona’s public financing law left him no choice. Munger, who eschewed public funds, said that decision places him at a competitive disadvantage.
Munger said he was prepared to deal with the fact that Jan Brewer and Dean Martin, both of who chose to run with public financing, automatically would get $707,000 of such funds.
What he was not prepared for was the fact the Buz Mills has so far put $2.3 million of his own cash into the race — and that the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday refused for now to void the law giving Brewer and Martin a dollar-for-dollar match.
That left Munger the odd man out.
“In this case, it has left a traditionally-funded candidate who was raising money the traditional manner the grossly underfunded candidate in the campaign,” said Munger, who estimated he had raised about $325,000 for his campaign. “How the state can justify that is frankly beyond me.”
Munger called the 1998 voter-approved measure which let candidates for statewide and legislative office get public funds “a well intended law that has created all kinds of perverse results” in the election process.
Money, however, was only part of Munger’s problem.
The most recent Rasmussen Reports survey showed the former president of the Arizona Board of Regents running fourth among Republicans, the choice of just 3 percent of likely registered GOP voters. Brewer led the pack at 45 percent, with Martin and Mills at 18 percent.
Since that time, Apache Junction Matt Jette has joined the Republican race by filing sufficient signatures to get his name on the August primary ballot. His name has not yet appeared in any polls.
Munger said, though, the system is rigged to discourage people from running for office, either with their own money or with private donations. He particularly lashed out at the matching funds provision which rewards publicly financed candidates when their privately funded foes raise more, up to three times the original entitlement.
At the rate Mills is spending money, that means Martin and Brewer each will be guaranteed slightly more than $2.1 million.
“The state is creating an incredibly unequal playing field,” he said.
Munger said he is not upset with Mills, a Northern Arizona businessman who has dipped into his personal fortune to finance his campaign, even though that move guarantees more money to Brewer and Martin.
“That is Americana,” he said. “What I have problems with is the state trying to fund the other campaigns so they have as much money — or as close to Buz Mills as possible — leaving behind all of the other traditionally-funded candidates.”
Munger said he has not decided who to endorse among the remaining field of GOP contenders. The survivor will face off against Terry Goddard, the lone Democrat in the race, and whoever wins the four-way primary for the Libertarian Party.