Democratic candidates running in the most competitive Senate contests around the country raised a combined $5 million more than their Republican counterparts, but the Republicans maintain a huge cash lead, thanks to several well-heeled incumbents who are sitting on massive war chests.
Across 12 states with 13 Senate seats up for election this year, 16 Democratic candidates raised a combined $32 million in the fourth quarter of 2018, new reports filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) show. Eighteen Republican candidates running in those same races pulled in $27 million — a figure which includes a $5 million check written by a wealthy new senator intent on saving her seat from a GOP challenger.
But the reports also show that the 18 Republicans have a combined $96 million in the bank, led by huge sums collected by the top two Senate Republican leaders, while the 16 Democrats have a combined $57 million on hand.
The reports show 20 candidates in those most competitive races raised more than $1 million in the final three months of the year.
No candidate raised more than Amy McGrath (D), a retired Marine challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) in Kentucky. McGrath pulled in $6 million in the quarter, while McConnell managed to raise $3.8 million. However, McConnell maintains a $2 million cash advantage over his Democratic challenger, with $11.5 million in the bank.
Meanwhile in Arizona, Democrat Mark Kelly pulled in just shy of $6 million, marking another quarter in which he outraised Sen. Martha McSally (R) by about $2 million. Kelly’s $13.6 million bank account leads McSally’s $7.7 million stockpile.
Three other challengers pulled in $1 million more than sitting senators: Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) raised $2.7 million for his campaign against Sen. Cory Gardner (R), who pulled in $1.6 million; Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon (D) raised $3.2 million compared to Sen. Susan Collins’s (R) $2 million; and in Michigan, Republican John James raised $3.4 million, outpacing the $2.3 million Sen. Gary Peters (D) raised.
In all three cases, though, the incumbent held a substantial cash lead: Gardner’s $7.7 million cash on hand and Collins’s $7.1 million are both more than double the amount Hickenlooper and Gideon have left over, while Peters holds $2 million more than James.
Four candidates — Kelly in Arizona, McConnell in Kentucky, and Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — reported more than $10 million on hand at the end of 2019.
The new glimpse at candidate fundraising suggests some contentious races ahead, several in states that were not always seen as competitive.
Graham’s likely opponent, former state Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison, has built a $4.7 million bank account after raising $3.5 million over three months. Graham has more than twice as much on hand, and the advantage of a Republican state, but Harrison is proving an adept fundraiser.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) reported $4.8 million in the bank at the end of the year as her leading Democratic challenger, real estate executive Theresa Greenfield, pulled in $1.2 million and held $2.1 million in reserve. Greenfield must get by Eddie Mauro, a wealthy insurance broker who has loaned his own campaign $1.75 million of his own money, in the June 2 primary before she gets a clean run at Ernst.
In Kansas, state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D) has cleared the field of her Democratic rivals and pulled in $1.1 million in her bid to win a seat held by retiring Sen. Pat Roberts (R).
Bollier raised more than twice as much as her three leading Republican opponents combined, and those three Republicans — former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Rep. Roger Marshall and state Senate President Susan Wagle — must face off in an August primary. But Bollier faces historical currents: Kansas hasn’t sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1932.
Alabama Sen. Doug Jones (D) is perhaps the most vulnerable senator up for reelection this year, running in a state President Trump carried easily in 2016. But Jones hauled in $1.7 million, more than the three top Republicans who will fight it out for the right to face him in November. Jones has stockpiled a nearly $5.5 million war chest.
Former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) reported $2.5 million on hand in his campaign account just weeks after jumping back into the race for his old seat. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R) has $2.2 million in the bank, and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville (R) has $1.5 million on hand after loaning himself $1 million. Those Republicans will clash in a March 3 primary ahead of a likely runoff to be held April 14.
Another Republican primary collision is coming in Georgia, where appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) will face off with Rep. Doug Collins (R), a member of Trump’s legal team in the impeachment trial. Loeffler, a wealthy businesswoman, has already lent her campaign $5 million, and she is also on air with television spots introducing herself to Georgia voters. Collins, who only joined the race last week, brings $1.7 million from his House campaign account.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) outraised former state Sen. Cal Cunningham (D) and has built a $5 million bank account, the reports show. Cunningham, once the subject of quiet Democratic complaints about his slow fundraising, picked up the pace in the final quarter of the year to raise $1.2 million.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee reported Friday it held $20 million in cash reserves, just over $1 million more than the $18.7 million that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) had on hand. But the advantage is larger than it appears; the DSCC is still carrying $6.8 million in debt from the 2018 midterm elections.
Among the top outside groups that back Senate Democrats and Republicans, the Democratic-aligned Senate Majority PAC pulled in $61 million in 2019. Its top rival, the Senate Leadership Fund, reported raising $30.8 million over the same period. An affiliated nonprofit, One Nation, raised $35.5 million, though slightly different rules govern how that money must be spent.