Senate Democrats face strong political headwinds in this year’s midterm elections, but they have maintained – and in some cases, super-charged – their fundraising in pivotal states, new campaign finance reports show.
The filings, which cover the first three months of 2022, further exemplify a campaign cycle awash in money – with energized small donors, billionaires and a cadre of self-financed candidates already powering mammoth spending.
The stakes are high: Control of the US Senate and House of Representatives is up for grabs this fall, along with the ability to shape President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda for the remainder of his first term.
Here’s a look at key takeaways from reports that candidates and political action committees filed late Friday with the Federal Election Commission:
Warnock, Kelly continue to outpace GOP fields
Two of the most vulnerable Democratic senators on the ballot this year – Georgia’s Raphael Warnock and Arizona’s Mark Kelly – have amassed some of the biggest campaign war chests of the cycle.
Warnock raised nearly $13.6 million in the January-March fundraising window – which his campaign touted as a new high for a Senate candidate in the first quarter of an election year.
The Georgia senator, who is running for a full six-year term this fall after winning a special election last year, entered April with nearly $25.6 million stockpiled in his campaign account. That was more than triple the amount banked by Herschel Walker, considered the front-runner for the Republican nomination. Former President Donald Trump encouraged Walker to enter the race, and the former football star has also consolidated support from the GOP’s establishment wing, often at odds with the ex-President.
In Arizona, Kelly reported raising $11.4 million in the first quarter and had $23.3 million in cash on hand on March 31 – far outpacing the field of Republicans vying to challenge him.
Two other vulnerable Democratic senators – Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire – also outraised their leading Republican challengers this quarter and ended March with bigger cash reserves.
Democratic challengers raise big sums
Even in less competitive Senate fights, Democratic challengers are pulling in big sums.
In Florida, donors continue to flood US Rep. Val Demings’ campaign with money in her challenge to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, whose seat independent political handicappers view as likely to remain in the GOP column.
Demings brought in $10 million in the first quarter, while Rubio collected nearly $5.8 million in the same period. They each had roughly $13 million in the bank at the quarter’s end.
Demings, whose national profile soared when she served as a House manager at Trump’s first impeachment trial, took in about half her contributions from individuals in small-dollar increments. Contributions from small-dollar donors represented a little more than a third of Rubio’s quarterly haul.
And in North Carolina, where Democrats are trying to pick up an open GOP-held seat in a state that twice backed Trump, Democrat Cheri Beasley outraised the top Republican candidates in the first quarter.
The former state Supreme Court chief justice took in more than $3.6 million and ended March with $5.1 million in unspent cash.
Trump’s endorsement of US Rep. Ted Budd has so far failed to clear the Republican field to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr, with former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory remaining in the primary.
Budd and McCrory each raised about $1.1 million and ended the quarter with roughly $2 million apiece in available cash.
Recent political history underscores that financial firepower alone doesn’t win races. In reliably red South Carolina, for instance, Democratic Senate nominee Jaime Harrison repeatedly shattered fundraising records in the 2020 election, only to lose by double digits to GOP incumbent Lindsey Graham.
Self-funders seek edge in crowded GOP primaries
David McCormick, a former hedge fund executive, loaned his campaign nearly $7 million in the first quarter – more than any other candidate.
One of his chief rivals in the Republican primary, former TV personality Mehmet Oz, plowed nearly $6 million into his campaign over the same period, filings show.
Trump recently endorsed Oz – bypassing McCormick, who had hired several former Trump aides and courted the former President’s support.
Deep-pocketed Republican candidates in other states also are making big bets on their candidacies. In Ohio, for instance, millionaire investment banker Mike Gibbons loaned his campaign $5 million in the first quarter.
On Friday, Trump backed a Gibbons rival, venture capitalist and “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance, in the crowded GOP primary to fill the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman.
Vance loaned his campaign $600,000 in late March, according to his FEC report.
Incumbents face off in West Virginia
In a bitter all-incumbent Republican primary in West Virginia’s new 2nd Congressional District, US Rep. David McKinley pulled in more than $481,000 during the first quarter – edging out US Rep. Alex Mooney, his Trump-endorsed rival, who raised $465,000.
But Mooney started April with more campaign cash stockpiled, $1.4 million to McKinley’s $1 million.
The May 10 primary is the first election this year that pits two sitting lawmakers against one another, following the once-in-a-decade redrawing of congressional boundaries.
West Virginia lost one of its seats after the 2020 census.
During the first quarter, McKinley scored endorsements and donations from the state’s Republican governor, Jim Justice, who with his wife, Cathy, contributed $5,800.
Billionaire GOP donor Ken Langone and his wife, Elaine, donated a combined $11,600 to McKinley’s reelection, filings show.
The conservative powerhouse Club for Growth and the House Freedom Fund funneled donations to Mooney’s campaign in the first quarter.
Cheney bests Hageman, again
Wyoming Republican Harriet Hageman, the attorney and activist seeking to oust US Rep. Liz Cheney in the August primary, saw her fundraising jump to $1.3 million during the first three months of the year. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and dozens of other House Republicans held a fundraiser for the challenger in March.
Trump, who called for ousting Cheney after she voted to impeach him last year, backs Hagerman.
But Cheney, one of the GOP’s most prominent Trump critics, set a new personal record during the first quarter, raising nearly $2.9 million. The third-term congresswoman had stockpiled $6.8 million in available cash to Hageman’s $1 million as of March 31, the filings show.
In another contest that pits the Trump wing of the GOP against an established Republican incumbent, Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski continued to outpace her Trump-backed primary challenger, Kelly Tshibaka.
Murkowski, who is seeking a fourth full term, raised nearly $1.6 million to Tshibaka’s roughly $670,000 in the first quarter. The incumbent had more than $5.2 million in cash on hand compared with about $968,000 for her challenger.
The Alaska GOP primary is also in August.
GOP billionaires make big bets in congressional fights
Super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited sums to shape election outcomes, are gearing up to help Republican candidates overcome any fundraising shortfalls ahead of the November general election.
Senate Leadership Fund, the main Republican super PAC focused on Senate races, pulled in $27 million during the first quarter. Among its donors: Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of private equity behemoth Blackstone, who contributed $10 million; Citadel hedge fund chief Ken Griffin, who gave $5 million; and Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch with $2 million.
Schwarzman also contributed $10 million to the House GOP-focused Congressional Leadership Fund.
Griffin donated $7.5 million to the House GOP super PAC and sent $2.5 million to Honor Pennsylvania – a super PAC working to boost McCormick in the Keystone State, Friday’s filings show.
Key super PACs for Democrats and Republicans file their public reports on different schedules, but the latest filings indicate Republicans will have big cash advantages.
Senate Leadership Fund and Congressional Leadership Fund reported a combined $165.7 million in cash on hand at the end of March. House Majority PAC and Senate Majority PAC, their Democratic counterparts, reported a combined $82.4 million on hand at the end of February.