Eight months before the primary, state Treasurer Doug Ducey already has collected more private cash in his bid for governor than his publicly funded foes have any chance of getting.

In a press release Monday, Ducey crowed that he raised $1.05 million since forming an exploratory bid for governor last July. Even with some expenses, Ducey said he still has $923,000 in the bank.

That already gives him a leg up over Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who is in the race but has decided he would seek public financing for his campaign. The most Bennett can get is $753,616 since the U.S. Supreme Court wiped out provisions of the voter-approved law that provided a dollar-for-dollar increase over that amount when privately funded foes spent more.

Ditto for other Republicans who have said they intend to rely on public funding, including state Sen. Al Melvin and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

Ducey may have another motive in issuing a press release more than three weeks before his campaign finance report is due to be filed: Keep the GOP field from getting any larger.

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith has promised a decision about a gubernatorial sometime this month, and his decision likely rests on whether he thinks he has a chance.

Smith did not return calls seeking a response to Ducey's pronouncement. An aide to Ducey said he was “unavailable” Monday to speak to the media. Melissa DeLaney, his press aide, insisted Ducey's decision to issue a press release weeks ahead of actually filing the legally required disclosure — including a list of contributors — was because “we have a lot of supporters we wanted to show our gratitude to.”

In the prepared statement, though, Ducey hinted he could easily raise a lot more.

He pointed out that most of his donations came under the old limits of $912 per donor. Since that time the Arizona Supreme Court has upheld legislation boosting that to $4,000, with Ducey's statement saying that creates “substantial room for further fundraising.”

Ducey will face at least one other privately financed contender who has not yet filed her report: Christine Jones, former general counsel for web hosting company GoDaddy.

The survivor of the Republican primary will face off against likely Democrat contender Fred DuVal, also running with private dollars. Others in that race include perennial Libertarian hopeful Barry Hess, with radio station owner Rick Murphy of Lake Havasu City running as an Independent.

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