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12:36 AM Mon, Nov. 19th

Babeu's fundraising down; Gosar distant 2nd

PHOENIX - Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu's congressional campaign saw a marked decrease in fundraising after he faced allegations in mid-February that he threatened an ex-boyfriend with deportation, but he still raised more money during the quarter than his two Republican rivals in the race.

Between January and March, the sheriff took in $144,000 from individual donors, well short of the $256,000 he raised in the final quarter of 2011, according to the Arizona Republic and other reports.

Babeu faces an incumbent tea party Republican who switched districts - from Flagstaff to Prescott, U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, and state Sen. Ron Gould, a Republican from northwestern Arizona, in an August primary.

Gosar raised $115,000 for the quarter, and Gould raised less than $19,000 from donors. Gould made a $90,000 personal loan to his campaign.

Babeu's finance report was perhaps the most eagerly anticipated of the quarter in Arizona. Public disclosure of his breakup with Jose Orozco, a Mexican who had handled website duties for Babeu, added new intrigue to the Republican primary race for the new 4th district, which includes the Prescott area.

Racy pictures posted online and emailed by Babeu and allegations of abuse of power competed with his national profile as an illegal-immigration-enforcement hard-liner. Orozco accused Babeu, his attorney and campaign manager Chris DeRose of threatening to deport him if he didn't keep quiet about the relationship. Babeu and DeRose deny making any threats.

Pundits predicted Babeu's campaign for Congress was doomed in a district regarded as one of the state's most conservative. Meanwhile, Babeu's sheriff's department has become engulfed in investigations of impropriety.

From January until the Feb. 17 allegations, Babeu raised nearly $68,000 from donors who gave $200 or more. From Feb. 18 until March 31, Babeu received about $27,000 from these larger donors.

By comparison, Babeu quickly raised $263,000 between October, when he entered the race, and December, records show. That was twice as much raised by Gosar, who was deciding which district he would pursue this year.

DeRose, the campaign manager, called Babeu's fundraising "nothing short of fantastic" in the face of the crisis. "Yet again we've out-raised an incumbent member of Congress," he said.

Gosar, however, argued that Babeu's donations depended on out-of-state donors who may not have heard much about the controversy or "do not share the same family values of the Arizona district he is trying to represent."