Senate Challengers Flush With Campaign Cash in Pivotal States

April 17, 2020by Kate Ackley, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)
Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly wave to the crowd before a college women's basketball game between the Washington State Cougars and the Arizona Wildcats on Feb. 16, 2020, at McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. (Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON — If first-quarter fundraising dollars were votes, then Democratic challengers would have captured Senate seats in Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, Maine and Montana.

Nearly all the party’s Senate contenders hauled in more campaign money than their opponents in pivotal battleground states that in November will determine control of the chamber.

“Obviously, there is a lot of enthusiasm on the Democratic side, and incumbents have been slowed down in their fundraising because of the COVID-19 crisis, so the numbers are closer than they would otherwise be,” said Republican John Feehery, a partner in the firm EFB Advocacy.

But money obviously doesn’t directly translate to votes, and there were notable exceptions to Democrats’ big numbers.

In Iowa, for example, incumbent Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican, raised more than $2.7 million during the first three months of this year. The Democratic front-runner most likely to face her in November, Theresa Greenfield, reported raising about $2.3 million in the quarter. Greenfield and several other contenders have a primary in June.

Incumbent Sen. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, brought in just under $4.1 million, less than his GOP challenger, military veteran John James, who reported more than $4.8 million in the quarter.

But many Democrats vying for Senate seats posted eye-popping numbers, especially given that the coronavirus pandemic put an end to in-person fundraising and other campaign events in the final weeks of the quarter.

“As Democratic candidates focus on serving their states and communities at this time, unprecedented grassroots support is fueling their campaigns and our path to flipping the Senate continues to expand,” Stewart Boss, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in an email to CQ Roll Call.

It’s not clear how COVID-19 will disrupt future fundraising totals, though smaller online donations are more likely to continue apace as big-dollar and political action committee events go on hiatus.

“It was a challenging quarter for high-dollar, event fundraising given the number of impeachment- and pandemic-related cancellations, but candidates who diversified into small-dollar, online strategies saw unprecedented engagement from thousands of new contributors, and WinRed was a big part of that for Republicans,” said GOP strategist John Ashbrook, a partner at the firm Cavalry LLC.

WinRed is a leading conservative competitor to Democrats’ ActBlue online fundraising platform, and it has helped the party build a significant small-donor base.

Sara Gideon, who serves as speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, brought in $7.1 million in her effort to oust Republican Sen. Susan Collins. Collins reported $2.4 million for the quarter.

Democrat Mark Kelly, the former astronaut who is challenging GOP Sen. Martha McSally in Arizona, raised $11 million in the quarter, outraising McSally for the fifth quarter in a row. In a sign that the state’s Senate race promises to be among the most expensive in the country, McSally hauled in $6.4 million.

In Colorado, incumbent GOP Sen. Cory Gardner raised about $2.5 million, while the state’s former Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, raised close to $4.1 million.

Still, Gardner has an advantage when it comes to money in the bank; he had nearly $10 million on hand as of March 31, compared with Hickenlooper’s $4.9 million.

Feehery noted that most GOP incumbents hold an advantage when it comes to how much cash they have on hand.

The average cash on hand for GOP incumbents in tough races is $9.9 million, according to a CQ Roll Call analysis of campaign reports. The average for Democratic challengers, meanwhile, was $2.9 million.

“And the power of incumbency becomes more real during crises like this because incumbents can weigh in directly and get relief for their constituents,” Feehery said. “Challengers don’t have that ability at the federal level.”

For example, as small businesses overwhelmed a pandemic-response program offering loans that could become grants if the money is used to keep employees on the payroll, the national GOP sent out a news release calling it “Senator Collins’ Paycheck Protection Program” and noting it already sent $2 billion heading to Maine firms.

In North Carolina, the Democratic challenger outraised the incumbent Republican. Democrat Cal Cunningham, an Army veteran, disclosed nearly $4.4 million, more than the $2.1 million haul for Sen. Thom Tillis.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who jumped into the race March 9 after a failed run for the Democratic presidential nomination, reported almost $3.4 million raised, while incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Daines raised $1.3 million.

Of course, some senators have the benefit of their own money, as is the case for Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Georgia Republican, who loaned her campaign $5 million. She had $6.1 million in cash on hand on March 31, but she has come under fire for stock sales before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. Rep. Doug Collins, a fellow Republican who is challenging her in the special election that will be held in November, raised nearly $2.5 million and had $2.2 million on hand.

———

Bridget Bowman and George LeVines contributed to this report.

———

©2020 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

In The News

Health

Voting

2020 Elections

Congress Begins Investigation of Alleged Justice Dept. Abuses
Political News
Congress Begins Investigation of Alleged Justice Dept. Abuses
June 15, 2021
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- A powerful congressional committee is beginning an investigation into reports the Justice Department secretly subpoenaed information about members of Congress and journalists during the Trump administration. The committee’s chairman said he was concerned the Justice Department “used criminal investigations as a pretext to spy... Read More

AP Interview: Disinformation Concerns Mail Voting Expert
Elections
AP Interview: Disinformation Concerns Mail Voting Expert

ATLANTA (AP) — Amber McReynolds, CEO of The National Vote at Home Institute, helped state and local election officials prepare for the record number of mailed ballots cast during last year's presidential election. She also was recently confirmed by the Senate to serve on the Board... Read More

'I'm Still Exhaling': Swing-state Voters on Biden's 100 Days
In The States
'I'm Still Exhaling': Swing-state Voters on Biden's 100 Days

ELM GROVE, Wis. (AP) — Standing on the sidelines of her son's soccer practice in this upscale suburb, Laura Hahn looked skyward for answers when asked how she would rate President Joe Biden's first 100 days in office.  Overall, Biden is doing well, she said after... Read More

Guess What? The 2020 Election Is Now Officially Over
Political News
Guess What? The 2020 Election Is Now Officially Over
March 31, 2021
by Dan McCue

Democrat Rita Hart threw in the towel Wednesday afternoon, giving up her bid to represent Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, and effectively ending the 2020 election cycle. Hart, who had been challenging the outcome of the race before the Committee on House Administration, said in a brief... Read More

Fox News Slapped With $1.6 Billion Lawsuit Over 2020 Election Claims
Litigation
Fox News Slapped With $1.6 Billion Lawsuit Over 2020 Election Claims
March 26, 2021
by Dan McCue

Dominion Voting Systems on Friday filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, arguing the cable news company sought to boost faltering ratings by falsely claiming the voting machine company had rigged the 2020 election.  The company, which is headquartered in Toronto, Canada and Denver,... Read More

Southern States Made It Harder to Vote in 2020
2020 Elections
Southern States Made It Harder to Vote in 2020
March 19, 2021
by Dan McCue

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Election systems in the Deep South in 2020 suffered from numerous shortcomings, making it harder for many voters -- particularly those from communities of color -- to safely cast their ballots, states a new analysis by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The report... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top