I couldn’t get mayoral candidate Steve Francis on the horn for this story on fundraising earlier this week, but he did give me a call back the next day.

He’d just reported giving or loaning his campaign a total of more than $1.3 million so far, allowing him to vastly outspend Mayor Jerry Sanders. I asked him how much he planned on spending in the race total. He admittedly avoided answering the question.

Here’s what Francis said:

I think that it depends on how much money the developers, the hoteliers and the Indian casinos put into the race through the Republican Party. … Obviously I’m going to continue to spend. In order to go up against an incumbent, in order to go up against a mayor that has a press conference every day over silly things, in order to combat that free media he’s getting every day — which borders at a level of absurdity — I’m going to have to keep spending money.

Sanders has held near daily press conferences since the end of February.

He criticized Sanders for not accepting his challenge to debate in all eight council districts. The Sanders campaign has said it could do a few, but not eight.

Here’s what Francis said:

To turn down the debates I think is a strong message to the citizens of these districts and particularly the voters that he’s not interested in debating anybody, which tells me he’s really running away from his record.

He’s got time for these silly press conferences, but he doesn’t have time to debate me or any other mayoral candidate. I find that hard to believe.

What’s more important? A debate with other candidates or have his 250th press conference on a nonscientific survey saying the friendliness of his employees has gone up?

I asked Francis if voters that he meets at grocery stores and community meetings remember the hard-line conservative Republican that he ran as in 2005 and if it has been difficult selling them on the new independent, populist Francis. He replied:

No. What people remember is me running as a fiscal conservative. What they’re seeing is perhaps another side of Steve Francis perhaps they didn’t see before.

I also asked if his internal polling was showing the results of the television ad blitz he’s conducted in the last month. He said:

We aren’t going to discuss polling.

ANDREW DONOHUE

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