By the numbers: New fundraising reports and the battle for Congress

Incumbents maintain advantages, but some challengers are closing in

Arizona Sen. Martha McSally led vulnerable Senate Republicans in fundraising, but still trailed her Democratic challenger at the end of the second quarter.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Arizona Sen. Martha McSally led vulnerable Senate Republicans in fundraising, but still trailed her Democratic challenger at the end of the second quarter. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted July 17, 2020 at 5:30am

Campaign fundraising reports filed this week provide the latest look at who has a financial advantage in the battle for Congress.

The second quarter, which spanned from April through June, saw an uptick in cash hauls over the previous three months, surprising campaign operatives who expected fundraising to drop amid the coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn.

A CQ Roll Call analysis of the second-quarter fundraising reports showed that House Democrats still have a sizable financial advantage as they defend their majority. So do Senate Republicans, but some Democratic challengers are closing the gap. This analysis covered reports from candidates in 100 House and 15 Senate races that were rated as competitive by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales or were targeted by the party committees. Candidates who lost primaries during the quarter were excluded.

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Battle for the House

House Democrats continued their prolific fundraising in the second quarter, with the average Democratic incumbent raising $774,000, nearly three times as much as the average Republican challenger, who raised $270,000.

On average, a Democratic House member in a competitive race has a campaign war chest eight times the size of a GOP challenger’s. In dollar terms, the average competitive Democrat had $2.8 million on June 30, compared with $347,000 for the average Republican opponent.

There were exceptions. Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips had slightly less cash on hand than his GOP challenger, Army veteran Kendall Qualls.

Eleven House Democrats in competitive races raised less money during the second quarter than their GOP challengers, including California Rep. Gil Cisneros. He raised a respectable $668,000, but his opponent, former Assemblywoman Young Kim, raised $1.2 million, the most of any GOP challenger in a competitive race.

GOP challengers also outraised California’s Harley Rouda; Florida’s Charlie Crist; Iowa’s Abby Finkenauer; Minnesota’s Angie Craig and Collin C. Peterson; Oregon’s Peter A. DeFazio; Pennsylvania’s Conor Lamb; and Wisconsin’s Ron Kind.

Texas Rep. Colin Allred’s GOP challenger Genevieve Collins also posted a bigger fundraising haul, but she loaned her campaign $235,000, which allowed her to surpass Allred.

The gap between Republican incumbents and their Democratic challengers was not as wide. The average House GOP lawmaker in a competitive race raised $715,000 in the second quarter; the average Democratic challenger raised $492,000.

Republican incumbents’ war chests were nearly three times the size of their Democratic challengers, at an average of $1.7 million on June 30 compared with $591,000 for the average Democratic challenger.

Seventeen House Republicans were outraised by their Democratic challengers, with Texas Democrat Wendy Davis leading the challengers with a $1.4 million haul in her race against freshman GOP Rep. Chip Roy, who raised $545,000.

Roy and six other House Republicans ended the quarter with less cash on hand than their challengers, including Alaska’s Don Young, Arizona’s David Schweikert, Illinois’ Rodney Davis and Minnesota’s Jim Hagedorn. Florida Rep. Ross Spano had less in his campaign account than one of his GOP primary challengers, Scott Franklin, who loaned his campaign $140,000.

Kansas GOP Rep. Steve Watkins had less money in the bank than both his Democratic challenger, Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla, and one of his GOP primary opponents, state Treasurer Jake LaTurner. Watkins was charged Tuesday with three felonies and one misdemeanor relating to voter fraud, and on Thursday fellow Kansas GOP Rep. Ron Estes endorsed LaTurner, according to The Kansas City Star.

In races in which no incumbent is running, Democrats looking to expand the majority they won in 2018 still have a financial advantage. The average Democrat in an open-seat race raised $663,000, twice as much as the average Republican, and ended the quarter with nearly $1.1 million in the bank compared with $299,000 for the average Republican.

Fight for the Senate

Senate Republicans defending their majority were outraised in the second quarter as recent primaries set the matchups in a slew of competitive races.

The average Democratic challenger raised $4.9 million in the second quarter, while the average GOP incumbent raised $4.4 million.

Senate Republicans maintained their cash-on-hand advantages though. On average, a battleground GOP incumbent ended the quarter with $9.4 million in the bank, while a Democratic challenger had an average of more than $4.9 million.

Two Senate Republicans — Arizona’s Martha McSally and Montana’s Steve Daines — ended the quarter with less cash than their challengers. While McSally led vulnerable Senate Republicans in fundraising this quarter, pulling in $9.3 million, she still trailed her Democratic challenger, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who raised $12.8 million.

The two vulnerable Democratic senators also maintained their cash-on-hand advantages.

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones’ war chest was 16 times larger than that of his GOP opponent, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, who won his party’s nomination in a primary runoff Tuesday. As of June 30, Tuberville had $551,000 while Jones had $8.8 million. But the race is still an uphill climb for Jones, given the state’s Republican lean.

Michigan Sen. Gary Peters was once again outraised by his Republican opponent, Army veteran John James. But Peters still had more in his campaign account, with $12 million on hand at June 30 compared with James’ $9.3 million.

Herb Jackson contributed to this report.