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Steve Francis continued to spend his personal funds at a rapid rate, plugging $1.2 million of his own money into his mayoral campaign between Jan. 1 and March 17, the period covered in his campaign report filed today.

His competitor, Mayor Jerry Sanders, raised $100,491, according to his filing. That brings Sanders’ total to $443,417. For the first time, his campaign announced a fundraising goal for the campaign — $800,000. In 2005, Sanders raised $1.2 million total for the primary and general election that year.

Combined with the $185,266 Francis contributed or loaned to his campaign in 2007, the businessman has given a total of more than $1.38 million to his candidacy.

The money has allowed Francis to buy up serious television airtime. According to his filings, he spent $339,881.50 on television airtime from Jan. 1 until March 17 and paid $693,137.97 to the media consultants who produced those ads, Squire Knapp Dunn Communications. (It’s the firm that did ads for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his two self-financed campaigns.) Francis also spent $3,353.25 on radio airtime.

Francis has launched an unprecedented television ad campaign, going on air 15 weeks before the election.

The Sanders campaign, on the other hand, has said it likely won’t go on air until three weeks before the election. It spent $24,140 on radio and $17,950 on ads with The San Diego Union-Tribune, a local newspaper, and SignOnSanDiego.com, its affiliated website.

So far, money has been a major issue in the campaign, as some political consultants have been surprised that Sanders hasn’t raised more funds to compete with Francis’ personal wealth.

Francis has campaigned on the pledge to take no contributions and has said, therefore, he would be beholden to no special interests upon taking office.

Here’s what Sanders campaign manager Michael McSweeney said in a statement the campaign just released:

Although we’re doing very well compared to other mayoral campaigns, we obviously can’t compete with millionaire Steve Francis in terms of raising and spending money. But we don’t think San Diego voters are going to make their decisions based on who spends the most money … The most striking difference between Mayor Sanders’ report and his opponents’ is that he’s received support from 1,818 individual San Diegans. Mr. Francis has received support from just one.

ANDREW DONOHUE

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