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If you feel like you've seen more advertising for the Omaha mayor's race than ever before, you're probably on to something.
The five candidates have spent more than $2 million so far, all told, dwarfing the amount spent at this point in what previously had been the most expensive mayor's race in Omaha history.
Based on new campaign figures reported this week to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, there's a lot more spending to come.
Mayor Jim Suttle's campaign reported having $140,000 left in the bank, the most of any campaign.
The four challengers combined have nearly $400,000.
The top two candidates from Tuesday's primary election will advance to a six-week general election campaign.
If history is any guide, that's when things will really rev up. Twelve years ago, Hal Daub and Mike Fahey spent just $1.2 million by this point. By the time it was all over, the campaigns had burned through a record $3.5 million.
Chris Peterson, campaign manager for former City Council President Dan Welch, said this primary's spending is likely the result of the number of candidates in the race.
“Now, you have five top-tier candidates. There's no second-tier candidate in the bunch,” Peterson said.
Still, Welch saw his fundraising machine fall flat during the reporting period. In each previous report, he was among the leaders in terms of money raised. This time, he got only $37,000 — less than half what was raised by his closest opponent.
Late contribution reports, though, show Welch raised around $30,000 after the period ended. Welch said he expects to make more reports of late donations.
Peterson said the campaign focused on fundraising in 2012 but has shifted in the past three months to grassroots campaign efforts.
The latest campaign reports, which cover the final few weeks before the primary, showed businessman Dave Nabity leading the way with $110,000 in donations.
He was followed by City Councilwoman Jean Stothert and Suttle, who each raised about $90,000, and State Sen. Brad Ashford, with about $82,000.
While Nabity had the most productive final fundraising period, nearly half of his money came from the family of former restaurant owner Mike Simmonds.
Simmonds gave $60,000 to the Nabity-led recall effort against Suttle in 2011.
During the last reporting period, Nabity's campaign received $45,000 from Simmonds, his daughter, and a company he's associated with.
Sid Dinsdale, another recall backer, donated $10,000.
Darold Bauer, Nabity's campaign manager, said he's happy to have the support.
“There are business leaders in Omaha who clearly believe Dave Nabity is the right person to lead Omaha for the next four years,” he said.
Stothert said the big donations make it appear that Nabity is having more success than he is.
“If you take the Simmonds family out, we're beating him,” she said.
She said she's pleased to have fundraising success in the final days of the primary campaign. It shows she's gaining momentum at just the right time, she said.
Ralph Remmert, a spokesman for Suttle's campaign, echoed that sentiment about Suttle.
“It's about peaking at the right time and making sure your message is heard when it needs to be heard,” he said.
Remmert noted that whichever candidates get through to the general election will keep spending.
“We still have six weeks to go,” Remmert said. “The general election is May 14, and that's the final goal.”
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