House Democrats build cash reserves ahead of 2022 midterms

Average GOP target has nearly $2 million already banked

California Rep. Katie Porter's $12.9 million balance helped boost the average cash-on-hand total for Democrats in districts the GOP is targeting next year.

 (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
California Rep. Katie Porter's $12.9 million balance helped boost the average cash-on-hand total for Democrats in districts the GOP is targeting next year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted July 16, 2021 at 4:20pm

House Democrats facing potentially competitive reelection races in 2022 hold a financial advantage compared with their possibly at-risk GOP colleagues, as candidates and party committees gear up for next year’s midterm battle for control of the chamber. 

The average Democratic incumbent in districts targeted by Republicans reported nearly $2 million in cash on hand at June 30, according to second-quarter disclosures to the Federal Election Commission. House GOP incumbents in districts that Democrats are targeting hold, on average, $750,000, according to a CQ Roll Call analysis of FEC filings.

The emerging portrait of political money in the House races that will determine party control next year offers clues about which incumbents have war chests to rebuff or even scare away potential challengers. But much is still unknown. Some incumbents don’t officially have challengers yet, and states have not yet redrawn congressional district maps to reflect the 2020 census.

And, of course, money is hardly the sole factor in determining the outcome of elections. If it were, House Democrats would have gained seats in 2020, instead of losing more than a dozen incumbents to GOP challengers. Republicans need a net pickup of five seats in 2022 to take the majority.

Some of House Democrats’ fundraising stars, such as California’s Katie Porter, skewed the average. Porter hauled in $2.7 million in the second quarter, which covers April through June, and held $12.9 million in the bank as of June 30.

Another California lawmaker, freshman Rep. Young Kim, ended the quarter with the most cash on hand among potentially vulnerable Republican incumbents, reporting more than $1.4 million in the bank.

Of the seven incumbent Democrats who hold seats that Donald Trump carried in 2020, six are seeking reelection and their average cash on hand was $1.5 million as of June 30. 

Among them, Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin, whose state is losing a House seat following the 2020 census, raised the most in the second quarter with more than $1 million. She reported more than $3.1 million cash in the bank as of June 30. 

Nine GOP incumbents, including Kim, represent districts that backed Joe Biden in 2020. They ended the second quarter with an average bank balance of about $1.2 million.

Small donors, big money

Small-dollar donors — those contributing less than $200 — continue to fuel House campaign accounts in both parties. In its attempt to catch up to Democrats’ longstanding online giving platform ActBlue, the GOP alternative, WinRed, said that it processed $131 million in donations in the second quarter and a total of $255 million for the year so far, with an average donation of $36.64 

Porter, for one, has collected more than $3.3 million in small-dollar donations so far this year, according to her campaign’s FEC filings. 

Minnesota Democrat Angie Craig, who represents a competitive Twin Cities district, said contributions of less than $100 made up more than 84 percent of her second-quarter haul. She had $1.9 million on hand at June 30.

The chase for small-dollar donations has often led to fundraising pitches over some of the most divisive political and social matters. 

Democrats, for example, have dispatched urgent pleas for cash, invoking new GOP voting measures and laws in various states and calling for a federal overhaul of elections, campaign finance and ethics laws. 

Some potential Senate candidates, such as Pennsylvania Democrat Conor Lamb, have been raising money for their House accounts, invoking their opposition to the other chamber’s filibuster in their solicitations. 

“The filibuster has to go,” was the subject line of a June 8 fundraising appeal from Lamb’s congressional campaign. He had nearly $1.8 million in his campaign account as of June 30 and reported hauling in about $1.5 million in the first half of this year. 

Republicans, meanwhile, have used their party’s most recent president, Trump, to solicit donations. They’ve also put their opposition to Democratic proposals to increase taxes and to overhaul voting and campaign finance laws front and center in fundraising pitches. GOP candidates have also focused their messaging on rising inflation as well as on hot-button fights over how racism is taught in schools and in other institutions; opposition to teachers unions; and government-imposed restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19. 

Of course, not every fundraising pitch has been divisive. 

California Democrat Josh Harder, who represents a competitive Central Valley district, reported raising $2.1 million in the first half of this year and ended the second quarter with more than $5 million in the bank.  

While he has raised money off his opposition to corporate PACs, he took a decidedly warm-and-fuzzy approach in one late-June pitch. “I LOVE DOGS!” Harder wrote in an email fundraising appeal to close out the quarter. 

Parties on

The two House campaign arms, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, have posted big numbers so far this cycle, portending a costly midterm battle ahead. 

The NRCC said it brought in $45.3 million in the second quarter, with more than $20 million in donations in June. 

“Voters are doing everything they can to help House Republicans retake the majority, stop Democrats’ socialist agenda and fire Nancy Pelosi,” said Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, who chairs the committee.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has tapped Trump’s donors in his effort to raise money for the midterm cycle, transferred nearly $6.6 million to the NRCC during the second quarter. 

“Under a Republican led House we will return our economy to the greatest in the world and ensure every American can get back to work,” the California Republican said in a news release on his fundraising efforts. 

The DCCC, as it seeks to hold Democrats’ majority in the House, said it had broken records for its second quarter, bringing in nearly $36.5 million, with $14.4 million coming in June.  

“Thanks to our Democratic Majority in Congress and Speaker Pelosi’s leadership, Americans are getting back on the job, crushing COVID-19, and receiving real economic relief,” DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney said in a statement. 

“While Minority Leader Kevin Mcarthy and House Republicans prioritize extremism and lies, Democrats in Congress are working each day to continue uplifting the American people. Our strong fundraising success shows American voters are rejecting Republican extremism and know just how critical a Democratic House Majority is to protecting our democracy and delivering for American families,” the New York Democrat added.

Primary stakes 

At this stage in the election cycle, some of the most pivotal fundraising contests are intraparty ones. 

House Democrats face an increasingly energized progressive base that is eager to challenge incumbents. The progressive group Justice Democrats has already backed a few challengers, helping fuel donations to them.  

Illinois Rep. Danny K. Davis lagged in his fundraising compared with his Justice Democrats-backed primary challenger, Kina Collins, in the second quarter, but the 13-term incumbent still had more cash on hand at June 30: nearly $300,000 to her $94,000.

New York Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, who survived a tough primary challenge in 2020, outraised her Justice Democrats-backed opponent, Rana Abdelhamid. The longtime incumbent ended the quarter with $658,000 on hand, compared with $257,000 for Abdelhamid.

Justice Democrats will get an early test of the strength of their endorsements in an Aug. 3 Democratic primary for the special election in Ohio’s 11th District. The group’s favored candidate, former state Sen. Nina Turner, held a fundraising advantage with nearly $1.2 million in the bank as of June 30. Her biggest rival in the crowded primary, Cuyahoga County Council Member Shontel Brown, reported just under $600,000. The contest will likely determine the successor to Democrat Marcia L. Fudge, who vacated the deep-blue seat in March to become Housing and Urban Development secretary.

Ryan Kelly contributed to this report.