Lindy Blanchard has spent far more money than any other candidate, including Gov. Kay Ivey, in Alabama’s Republican gubernatorial primary race.
The source of that money, however, is somewhat unusual.
In attempting to unseat the incumbent Ivey as well as defeat Tim James and five other challengers, Blanchard has essentially funded her own campaign – receiving only a fraction of the financial support as her opponents yet still outspending them.
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Since dropping out of the Alabama Senate GOP primary and entering the governor’s race in December, Blanchard – the former ambassador to Slovenia during the Trump administration – has loaned her campaign $7.8 million. That’s in addition to the $5 million with which she seeded her Senate campaign.
Blanchard has used that money to outspend Ivey by more than $2 million as of March 31.
Meanwhile, Ivey and James have not loaned money to their campaigns. However, James reported receiving two loans in December from supporters totaling $700,000. A loan for $500,000 came from Guice Slawson, a timber executive in Montgomery. And a $200,000 loan came from John McInnis III, a construction CEO in Orange Beach whose family is the majority owner of the Flora-Bama beach bar.
According to state campaign finance reports, Blanchard has spent more than $6.3 million so far with $5 million spent on advertising. That outdistances the spending by Ivey ($4.2 million with $2.8 million spent on advertising) and James ($2.2 million with $2 million spent on advertising).
At the end of the most recent reporting deadline at the end of March, Ivey had the most cash on hand with $1.7 million. Blanchard was close behind at $1.5 million and James was next with more than $627,000. Major contributions reported by the campaigns since the last reporting deadline through Wednesday has padded Ivey’s cash advantage. The governor now has more than $2.6 million remaining while Blanchard has almost $1.5 million and James has $777,000.
Fundraising by Blanchard, Ivey and James far outdistances the five other candidates in the Republican primary – Lew Burdette, Stacy Lee George, Dean Odle, James David Thomas II and Dean Young — whose combined cash on hand is still more than $330,000 shy of what James holds in his coffers.
Blanchard’s self-funding strategy has been supplemented by contributions from just 14 individuals over the past four months – yielding $51,900. Those 14 contributions from individuals have come from nine different addresses — meaning that in five cases, multiple individuals at the same address made contributions.
In comparison, Ivey routinely receive dozens of contributions from individuals each month while James’ contributor list has grown since he entered the race in December. In March alone, Ivey reported receiving 98 contributions from individuals and James reported 93. Those contributions from individuals are separate from donations from businesses or political action committees, which both Ivey and James have received.
But Blanchard has not. All her money in the campaign has come from self-loans or her small group of individual contributors, which she touted as an “incredible inherent advantage.”
“It’s easy to criticize someone who has been so successful in business that they are able to fund a campaign themselves as I have done,” Blanchard said in a statement to AL.com. “However, there is an incredible inherent advantage that is overlooked by simply focusing on the number of donors.
“In the case of Alabama’s governor’s race, two of the three candidates are almost fully financed by special interests – and many of those are even outside the state, a curious note. Just check the reporting to date.”
According to Blanchard’s campaign website, she and her husband, Johnny, built their wealth by starting a business managing apartments and later through apartment complex acquisitions and syndications.
Both Ivey and James’ contributions have predominantly come from Alabama, though Ivey filings are dotted with out-of-state businesses and political action committees. The governor’s single largest donation came earlier this month when Get Families Back To Work Inc. gave $750,000 to Ivey’s campaign. Listed as a business contribution on Ivey’s report, Get Families Back To Work listed the same Pennsylvania Avenue address in Washington D.C. as the Republican Governors Association. Get Families Back To Work has a limited online footprint but paid for a TV ad earlier this year criticizing Democrat Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, who is running for reelection.
James’ largest contribution is a pair of $500,000 donations from Clearbrook LLC in Mobile, a water filter and food products company.
With her own campaign money coupled with a smattering of individual contributions, Blanchard said in the statement she will be “free from ANY special interest influence. I will be beholden to no one and work only for the people of Alabama.”
The Ivey campaign did not respond to a request for comment. The James campaign said he had no comment.
The Republican primary is May 24.
“This is why,” Blanchard’s statement said of her financial independence, “it isn’t necessarily a bad thing – and, in fact, can be a good thing, not to seek or require special interest endorsements like some of my opponents.”