Democrats Tops in Cash Among Midterm Election House Challengers

July 18, 2018 Greg Giroux
  • Koch network readies $1.8 million anti-McCaskill ad buy
  • Nunes’s $6.1 million biggest House incumbent bankroll

Democrats dominate the best-funded House candidates seeking to unseat incumbents in November.

All 25 challengers with the most campaign cash-on-hand are Democrats, as are all but three of the 46 with at least $500,000 in their accounts, according to a Bloomberg Government review of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The campaigns were required to disclose what they’ve raised and spent as of June 30.

Democrats are waging serious campaigns against far more Republican incumbents than in previous elections as they seek a net gain of 23 seats to overturn the GOP majority at the midpoint of President Donald Trump’s term.

The four best-funded challengers, all Democrats, are Elissa Slotkin ($2.2 million), who worked on national security policy in Democratic and Republican administrations and is seeking to unseat Rep. Mike Bishop in Michigan’s 8th District; Scott Wallace ($1.7 million), a philanthropist up against Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania’s 1st District; Andy Kim ($1.7 million), a former aide to retired Gen. David Petraeus who is opposing Rep. Tom MacArthur in New Jersey’s 3rd District; and Tom Malinowski ($1.6 million), a State Department official in the Obama administration challenging Rep. Leonard Lancein New Jersey’s 7th District.

Most of the Democratic challengers with fat campaign checkbooks are opposing Republicans with even more money, a longstanding advantage of incumbency.

BGOV Campaign Resources: 2018 Primary Schedule and More

MORE FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL:

Koch Network Spends Big Against McCaskill

The political network founded by billionaires Charles and David Koch are planning to spend $1.8 million on a new television and Internet advertising campaign critical of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

The spot is sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, the network’s flagship political operation. The ads are scheduled to start Thursday and run for three weeks.

Watch the spot here.

Progressive Groups Join Forces

A coalition of 23 groups says it’s starting to organize volunteer door knockers and phone bankers for a coordinated push on behalf of some Democratic candidates in the four days before the November election.

The group, which includes MoveOn and Organizing for Action, says its goal is to form “the largest grassroots army of volunteers ever seen in a midterm election.”

“That’s when conversations with voters are most effective and most likely to turn out votes,” said Ethan Todras-Whitehill, director of Swing Left, which is leading the coalition.

“People criticize the progressive movement for not speaking with one voice,” Todras-Whitehill said in an interview. “We may have all of these different brands and races, but we all agree on one thing: we all need you to be there on the last weekend.”

Big Money in Open Seats

In districts where no incumbent is running, the most cash-rich candidates are Democrats Mikie Sherill in New Jersey’s 11th District ($2.9 million) and Chrissy Houlahan in Pennsylvania’s 6th District ($2.2 million).

Both women are military veterans seeking well-educated, higher-income and mostly suburban districts left open by retiring Republicans Rodney Frelinghuysen and Ryan Costello, respectively.

Sanford Has Money to Burn

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) left $1.5 million in his campaign fund after losing a Republican primary to state Rep. Katie Arrington earlier in June.

Sanford, famously frugal with how his campaign funds and federal monies are spent, lost by 4 percentage points in the June 12 election. Republican leaders and the American Hospital Association made political donations to Arrington after she beat Sanford.

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), another lame duck, had $1.1 million left in his campaign account four days after he was stunned in the Democratic primary by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a liberal activist. Crowley spent more than $550,000 in the final weeks of the primary and still lost by more than 13 percentage points.

Small-Donor Bonanza for Ocasio-Cortez

Ocasio-Cortez, a shoo-in to join the 116th Congress in January, took in $560,000 just before and after her defeat of Crowley in a strongly Democratic district in parts of Queens and the Bronx.

Most of the money came from donors who gave less than $200. Her receipts came almost exclusively from individual donors, as Ocasio-Cortez has rejected donations from corporate political action committees.

Nunes is No.1

With $6.1 million in campaign funds, Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is the best-funded House incumbent seeking re-election. He raised about $57,000 per day in the final 45 days of the second quarter, much of it from smaller donors his campaign has cultivated in frequent fundraising solicitations that highlighted Trump’s praise for Nunes.

Trone’s Total

Maryland wine-retailer David Trone parted with $11.5 million of his own money to win a Democratic primary last month. He surely won’t need to match that spending to win the general election in a Democratic-leaning district reaching from Montgomery County to western Maryland. But he may well top the $13.4 million he invested in a losing 2016 bid for a different Maryland district won by Jamie Raskin (D).

With assistance from Katherine Scott and John McCormick (Bloomberg News)

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bgov.com; Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com

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