The latest campaign finance reports show the mayoral campaigns of incumbent John DeStefano Jr. and challenger state Sen. Martin Looney to be nearly neck and neck in cash raised since January, and their campaigns both claimed the fund-raising results as an early victory.

In the last filing period, which began in January, the two campaigns raised nearly the same amount of money, with DeStefano’s $45,600 edging out the $43,580 raised by Looney’s campaign. Looney and DeStefano will face each other in September’s Democratic primary.

In the fourth quarter of 2000, Looney far surpassed DeStefano’s fund-raising totals, bringing in $78,325 to DeStefano’s $45,925.

DeStefano still has raised considerably more money over the course of the campaign — $216,775 since he began fund raising last April –Êwhile Looney has raised only $121,905 since his campaign began in November.

Looney’s campaign manager Jason Bartlett said he was surprisd Looney’s fundraising total had come so close to DeStefano’s, saying that as an incumbent the mayor should have a fund-raising advantage.

“I expected him to be twice as much so I am extremely pleased that we are keeping pace,” Bartlett said. “I don’t want to get cocky or arrogant or overconfident, but we’re even with the incumbent mayor and, make no bones about it, we should not be.”

But Ward 1 Alderman Julio Gonzalez ’99, who is managing DeStefano’s campaign, said the mayor’s campaign, confident in its steadily growing war chest, was focusing efforts on issues and organizing voters, not raising money.

“Money is only a part of the story,” Gonzalez said. “We’re really excited where we are with the issues.

“At the end of day we will have a fund-raising advantage, and we have larger events in the future but it’s not about that. It’s about who’s out there organizing the electorate and taking ownership of the issues.”

Instead, Gonzalez said, Looney’s frequent contributions from political action committees revealed desperation in his fund-raising efforts. PACs, which have contributed more money proportionally to Looney than DeStefano throughout the campaign, contributed $3,400 to Looney’s campaign this filing period, nearly 8.4 percent of the total money raised this period. In past periods, PACs composed 16.8 percent of Looney’s war chest, while only 3.8 percent of the mayor’s total funds. This filing period, DeStefano listed no donations from PACs.

“Obviously they don’t have a communitywide base of support,” Gonzalez said. “They’ve done a lot of things to show they are running out of steam, like asking people to send additional contributions and going to PACs that have nothing to do with New Haven.”

But Bartlett said the closeness of both campaign’s recent fund-raising efforts should energize Looney supporters to contribute to his campaign.