PORTLAND – Much of tonight’s debate among Portland’s mayoral candidates will focus on money-related issues: jobs, economic development and taxes. But to what extent will money play a role in the race?

Late last week and early this week, about 10 of the 15 candidates disclosed — to some extent — the amount of money they have raised or intend to raise for their campaigns.

Some, like former state Sen. Ethan Strimling, have built large war chests. Strimling said last week that he’s “well north” of the $26,300 he had raised by mid-August.

City Councilor Nicholas Mavodones — the incumbent mayor — and Jed Rathband said they also have exceeded $20,000.

Former state Sen. Michael Brennan wouldn’t say how much he has raised but said his budget will exceed $50,000, “and we are on track to meet our budget expectations.”

Many of the underdogs — at least financial underdogs — said this week that they hope and believe money won’t be a significant factor in determining the city’s first publicly elected mayor in 88 years.

“I would hope ideas and shoe leather would prevail and we will not be selling Portland to the highest bidder,” said former state Rep. John Eder, who said Tuesday that he had raised about $450.

Money is likely to be a tricky issue in the race. Under Portland’s campaign finance laws, the candidates won’t have to disclose how much money they have, or where it came from, until Oct. 28, 11 days before the Nov. 8 election.

A second report won’t come out until Dec. 20, six weeks after the election.

That means candidates can say how much money they have raised to the media or supporters, but the listeners can only take their word for it. And it’s not always clear if stated amounts actually have been collected, or if those totals include yet-to-be-given pledges from potential donors.

Some candidates, like City Councilor David Marshall and teacher Markos Miller, gave fundraising goals of $15,000 to $20,000 — less than some aforementioned candidates have already raised.

Lesser-known candidates like Chris Vail, Richard Dodge and Peter Bryant either have just begun fundraising or haven’t started at all.

In an email last week, Miller said it’s not the amount of money candidates raise, but how they choose to spend it.

“Meaningful exposure to voters is key,” he said. “Money can help facilitate that, but will not ensure it. Those well-funded will have an advantage, (but) will be they be able to exploit it?”

Nearly all of the candidates said money helps with name recognition — often a major factor in who wins elections. Money can buy signs, radio ads and campaign organizations, which all help get a candidate’s name out to the public.

But even the well-funded and moderately funded candidates tried to downplay the effect that money will have on this race. Brennan said money is only one of numerous factors that decide elections.

Ralph Carmona, who said he had $8,500 by Sept. 1 and hoped to raise $25,000, expressed a similar sentiment.

“I would be surprised if it came down to a direct correlation between fundraising and electoral success,” he said.

City Councilor Jill Duson, who declined to give a specific fundraising goal or the amount she has raised, said Portland voters are engaged enough to offset any advantages that money usually provides.

“I believe that the voters will focus on the leadership competencies of the candidates, not who spends the most money,” she said.

Expressing an idea that several other candidates and their campaigns expressed, City Councilor Marshall said a factor that count more than dollars bill is total man-hours. Marshall has 100 volunteers, he said, 40 of whom he personally trained.

“We may not spend the most,” he said, “but I don’t think many other campaigns will have as many volunteers who work as hard as ours do.”

Staff Writer Jason Singer can be contacted at 791-6437 or at:

[email protected]