Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2006| Political action committees fighting for and against the November Miramar vote have filed their first campaign finance reports, and one thing is clear: It’s still early.

In a campaign where some managers have cited the need to raise millions, just $73,559 was raised through June 30.

  • The Coalition to Preserve the Economy, proponents of the Miramar airport, raised and spent more funds than any committee. The group led by consultant John Kern, former Mayor Dick Murphy’s chief of staff, raised $46,000 and spent $49,000.
  • Taxpayers for Responsible Planning, an anti-Miramar group managed by consultant T.J. Zane, has raised $16,469 and spent $15,328.
  • Save our Military – No on Miramar, an airport opponent run by consultant John Dadian, raised $11,090 and spent $1,274.

While proponents of the Miramar plan have raised more money, they appear to be facing an uphill battle. A private poll taken in mid-July shows 61 percent of the city’s population is opposed to the ballot measure, with 34 percent in favor. The poll, which has a 4.3 percent margin of error, also showed that 48 percent of likely voters would definitely vote no on the ballot measure.

No politicians have backed the initiative, save for San Diego City Councilman Tony Young, who also serves on the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority – the group responsible for the Miramar push.

And the Marine Corps has vehemently opposed any suggestion of using its base for a commercial airport.

But will that early lead – which doesn’t include voters outside the city – stand for the next three months? Jack Monger, a local political consultant, said probably not.

“If you ask a political consultant, they’ll tell you they’d like to have 71 percent,” Monger said. “It’s going to deflate.”

Fundraising totals do not reflect the firepower the two sides have at their disposal – the campaign has no contribution limits. Political observers point to Labor Day as a key landmark in the campaign season, which will culminate Nov. 7.

However, some are already talking about scaling back their strategies. Zane, whose group formed in late January, said in June that he expected to raise $1.5 million to $2 million to primarily finance between six and eight countywide mailers. He revised that figure Tuesday, saying $500,000 and three or four mailers would be nice.

The lack of early fundraising isn’t surprising, Monger said. The airport authority didn’t officially decide on Miramar until June 5. The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, viewed as a trigger for fundraising from business interests, only endorsed the measure last week. Many business advocacy groups are still deciding whether to endorse the measure. And within the last two weeks airport officials were being pitched on a plan to change the ballot language.

Clearly, the airport debate has been in flux.

“Under any other circumstances I’d say it’s too late,” Monger said. “But they didn’t have the ballot language (until June 5) – and they were all waiting to see the ballot language.”

Real estate magnate Malin Burnham has so far been the biggest contributor to the pro-Miramar group, giving $20,000. The Sycuan Bank of the Kumeyaay Nation gave $10,000. Two businesses and one person connected with airport authority board member William D. Lynch gave a combined $15,000.

The opposition has been buoyed by the defense industry. Save our Military – No on Miramar got $5,000 from Epsilon Systems Solutions, a local defense firm, and $1,000 from Terry Magee, a Lockheed Martin vice president. Taxpayers for Responsible Planning got a $5,000 boost from Alex Barron, the group’s founder. J.F. Bracamonte, president of Jimsair Aviation Services, which is involved in litigation against the airport authority, sent in $2,500.

Their campaigns come after the airport authority’s three-year search that identified Miramar as the best site to house a new airport and solve an air capacity crunch projected at Lindbergh Field after 2015.

It remains unclear how the opposition groups will coordinate their separate campaigns. Dadian, who runs one anti-Miramar group, could not be reached for comment. But Zane said the groups’ board members are in frequent contact, leaving the door open for possible consolidation.

“Neither side is willing to fold up their tent,” Zane said. “They’re probably hoping the other side comes to them.”

Please contact Rob Davis directly with your thoughts, ideas, personal stories or tips. Or send a letter to the editor.

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