OAKLAND -- The group seen as having the best chance to oust Mayor Jean Quan now appears short on cash, volunteers and signatures just weeks before a self-imposed deadline to put a recall vote on the November ballot.

The Committee to Recall Mayor Quan Now has collected fewer than 7,000 signatures, committee member Lee Edwards said -- less than half of the nearly 20,000 valid signatures from registered Oakland voters needed to trigger a recall.

The group also has failed to meet its fundraising targets, forcing it to cut back on paid signature gatherers and saddling it with debts of more than $26,000. Most of the unpaid bills are owed to the group's attorney, James Sutton.

A poll commissioned by political consultant Larry Tramutola potentially adds to the group's fundraising difficulties. The survey of 403 likely voters conducted in mid-April found that despite 76 percent of respondents saying that Quan has done no better than a fair job in office, only 34 percent would vote to recall her.

"Even if they could get the recall on the ballot, the question is could they win the election, and I don't think that would happen at all," Tramutola said.

The recall effort appeared viable when it began in December as Quan's popularity plunged over her handling of Occupy Oakland. Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente and former mayoral candidate Joe Tuman announced that they would seek Quan's seat in a recall, but the campaign has not gotten support from donors willing to fund a $30,000 professional signature-gathering drive.

The committee took in only $12,587 during the first three months of the year, according to statements filed Tuesday with the city. More than half of those funds came from just five donors, most of whom are with the East Bay Rental Housing Association, a nonprofit that represents landlord interests.

Quan allies have taken the recall seriously, forming a committee to raise money for a potential recall election. Neither group was required to list its contributions until after June, so it's unknown how much the anti-recall campaign has raised.

There actually are two committees circulating dueling recall petitions against Quan. But the other committee, led exclusively by Oakland Black Caucus member Gene Hazzard, wasn't expected to collect enough valid signatures. On Tuesday, Hazzard said his chances to force a recall by his May 14 deadline "looked bleak."

The recall group Edwards is a part of started after Hazzard's and has until early July to submit its signatures. However, campaign leaders have said they want to submit their signatures in June to get the recall on the November election rather than forcing a potentially expensive special election that voters might see as a waste of money.

Edwards remained optimistic of the group's chances Tuesday as he solicited signatures outside Frank H. Ogawa Plaza during a boisterous Occupy Oakland rally. Noting the many protesters in the plaza, Edwards said, "We think we'll have a prime opportunity for (Quan) to fail on things like this."

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.