House Democrats Widen Massive Fundraising Edge

April 17, 2020by Bridget Bowman, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)
Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) speaks to constituents at a picnic on August 24, 2019, at Northwood Community Park in Irvine, Calif. (Brian Cahn/Zuma Press/TNS)

WASHINGTON — House Democrats have expanded their financial advantage over Republicans in battleground districts, new fundraising reports show.

The reports covering the year’s first three months, which were due to the Federal Election Commission by midnight Wednesday, show fundraising did not take a significant hit even though the coronavirus pandemic upended campaigns in the weeks leading up to the quarter’s end on March 31.

Some strategists are expecting fundraising to be much more difficult in the next quarter. The pandemic has shuttered in-person fundraisers and donors may be less willing to give as the economy falters.

With an uncertain fundraising environment ahead, a CQ Roll Call analysis found that House Democrats remain in a strong financial position to defend their majority. This analysis focused on incumbents and challengers in races that Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates as competitive, as well as seats that each party’s campaign arm is targeting. Candidates who raised less than $5,000 or who had not filed fourth quarter reports were excluded.

Here are six takeaways from the filings:

1. A wider cash gap

House Democrats have a massive cash-on-hand advantage over their GOP challengers. On average, House Democrats had nearly $2.7 million — nine times that of their GOP challengers, who had an average of $289,000 on hand.

Of the 51 Democrats on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s target list, 32 had more than $2 million in the bank on March 31. By comparison, just two Republicans trying to unseat Democratic incumbents, former Rep. David Valadao and Michelle Steel — both of California — had more than $2 million on hand. Five other GOP challengers had more than $1 million in their campaign accounts

House Democrats in competitive districts continued their strong fundraising as well, raising an average of $663,000 in the first quarter. California Rep. Katie Porter raised the most of the targeted incumbents, pulling in a whopping $2.1 million. Seven other targeted Democrats raised more than $1 million.

On average, their GOP challengers raised nearly $158,000. The top Republican fundraiser was Wesley Hunt, who brought in $918,000 in his race against Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher in Texas’ 7th District.

2. Republicans hold their own

Targeted House Republicans also maintained a financial advantage over their Democratic challengers. On average, GOP incumbents ended the quarter with more than $1.9 million on hand, compared with $385,000 for their average Democratic challenger.

Of the 33 targeted GOP incumbents in the House, seven had more than $2 million on hand. Two Democratic challengers, Wendy Davis of Texas and Betsy Dirksen Londrigan of Illinois, had roughly $3 million in the bank, while three challengers had more than $1 million.

In the first quarter, targeted House Republican incumbents raised an average of $544,000, while their average Democratic challenger raised $263,000.

The top two incumbent Republican fundraisers were once again California Rep. Devin Nunes, who raised $3.9 million, and Texas Rep. Daniel Crenshaw, who raised $2.3 million. Davis topped the Democratic challengers with a $1.2 million haul.

3. Democrats have cash advantage in open seats

In the 13 targeted House seats with no incumbent on the ballot, the average Democratic candidate had an advantage in cash on hand, ending the quarter with nearly $720,000, almost three times the average Republican’s $244,000.

But both parties were fairly even in fundraising during the quarter for open seats, with the average Republican depositing $373,000 while the average Democrat took in $368,000.

4. Trouble signs for incumbents?

Fifteen targeted House members were outraised by their challengers in the first quarter, including 11 Republicans and three Democrats. Michigan independent Rep. Justin Amash was also outraised by two of his GOP opponents and the Democrat in the race. He revealed this week he had “paused” his congressional campaign in February to consider a run for president.

The Republicans who raised less than candidates in the opposite party included Reps. Don Young of Alaska, David Schweikert of Arizona, Scott Tipton of Colorado, Ross Spano of Florida, Steve King of Iowa, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Steve Watkins of Kansas, Ann Wagner of Missouri, Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, Chip Roy of Texas and Jaime Herrera Buetler of Washington.

On the Democratic side, Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota and Colin Allred of Texas were all outraised by GOP challengers.

5. Primary problems

Some House Republicans are also facing well-funded primary challengers. In Iowa, King, who was removed by GOP leadership from House committees because of racist remarks, was once again outraised by a Democrat and a Republican vying for his seat. GOP state Sen. Randy Feenstra raised $123,000 to King’s $42,000. The 4th District’s primary is set for June 2.

Florida GOP Rep. Ross Spano was also outraised by his primary opponent, Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin. Franklin loaned his campaign $160,000 of his own money, bringing his first quarter fundraising total to $267,000. Spano raised $229,000.

Kentucky GOP Rep. Thomas Massie is not in a battleground district but has recently been in the spotlight for drawing the ire of President Donald Trump. Massie’s primary challenger, lawyer Todd McMurtry, loaned his campaign $135,000, and raised a total of $321,000 for the quarter. But Massie raked in $648,000, and he has a cash-on-hand advantage.

6. Issa tops self-funders

Two dozen House candidates in competitive races contributed to or loaned their campaigns more than $100,000 between January and March. The top self-funder by far was former California GOP Rep. David Issa, who has spent $4.6 million of his own money on his campaign for the 50th District, which is adjacent to his old House seat. Issa was the wealthiest member of Congress when he was in office.


Herb Jackson and George LeVines contributed to this report.


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

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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