By Jim EllisFeb. 7, 2020 — The 4th Quarter campaign disclosure reports are published and today we look at the key early primary Senate states, those that will have an initial vote on Super Tuesday, March 3.
Five states will hold their regular primaries on that day, and four of them have Senate elections. Voters in Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Texas will take at least the first step in choosing their statewide nominees on Super Tuesday. California, which also holds its regular primary that day does not have a Senate race in this cycle. In Arkansas, Democrats failed to produce a candidate, meaning that Sen. Tom Cotton (R) will head into the general election as a virtually unopposed candidate.
Alabama hosts a major Republican primary featuring former US attorney general and senator, Jeff Sessions. He is running for the seat he vacated to accept his federal appointment. Sessions is being fiercely challenged, however. Two serious candidates are also vying for the party nomination, US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) and retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville. Ex-state Supreme Court chief judge and 2017 Senate special election nominee Roy Moore is back for another attempt, but his previous poor performance and lack of funding has relegated him to lower-tier status.
On the fundraising front, the Federal Election Commission reports find Sessions raising more than $530,000 but has spent more than $812,000. At the end of the year, he held over $2.5 million in cash, but most of those funds were raised during his time as an incumbent Senator.
Coach Tuberville has done an outstanding job of fundraising for a first-time candidate in a crowded field, raising over $1.3 million from individuals and loaning his campaign $1 million. His year-end cash-on-hand (CoH) figure was $1.52 million.
Rep. Byrne has accumulated over $3.3 million for his campaign, including transferring more than $2.2 million from his US House committee. His CoH total is just under $2.1 million.
Judge Moore has done a poor job of raising funds, indicative of the lack of support he has generated. For the election cycle, he has raised only $127,000, a stark contrast from the $5.3 million he had for the 2017 special election. His campaign treasury was down to just over $44,000 at the end of 2019.
For his part, incumbent Doug Jones has brought in over $7 million with almost $5.5 million in the bank at the end of the year. His vote to remove President Trump from office is likely to doom him politically before the Alabama electorate but will swell his campaign account from national donors to an even greater degree.
The Republicans are likely to advance to a run-off election, very likely featuring Sessions and either Tuberville or Byrne.
In North Carolina, though a run-off state, we are very likely to see a Democratic nominee chosen on March 3 because the victory threshold is only three percent and there appear to be only two competing candidates.
Former state senator, Cal Cunningham is the party establishment favorite and has raised $3.3 million with $1.7 million on hand at the end of the year, ready to be spent in the two-month period before the March 3 vote.
His top opponent, state Sen. Erica Smith (D-Gaston), who has polled close to Cunningham in some polls, has raised only $213,444 for the campaign and has only $95,000 to spend in the two month drive to election without substantially increasing her fundraising program.
Expect Cunningham to clinch the nomination and then face Sen. Thom Tillis (R) in the long general election cycle. The senator has been on a torrid fundraising pace for his part and accumulated over $9.6 million for the campaign with $5.3 million cash-on-hand at the end of 2019.
The Texas Senate race will assuredly advance to a May 26 run-off election as a dozen Democratic candidates are competing for the party nomination with none of them even reaching 12 percent support in a statewide poll.
Retired military helicopter pilot and Afghanistan War veteran M.J. Hegar is one of the stronger candidates, and a good fundraiser. At the end of the year she had pulled in $3.2 million after raising over $5 million for a 2018 congressional race. Her CoH was just over $1 million on Dec. 31.
State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) attracted just under $1 million and had less than $526,000 in the bank. Non-profit organization executive Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez posted over $807,000 but with only $228,000 remaining in her account. Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards also raised just over $807,000 and held just under $331,000 in her account at year’s end.
Former congressman and gubernatorial nominee Chris Bell has been particularly disappointing on the campaign trail, raising just under $320,000 and reported a mere $8,000 remaining in the account. None of the other seven candidates have any significant financial support.
With only Hegar having the funding wherewithal to run a statewide campaign in a place as large as Texas, it would be expected that she will be one of the run-off qualifiers. We shall see who she opposes on March 3.
The eventual Democratic nominee will face Sen. John Cornyn (R), running for a fourth term. In contrast, the senator has already raised more than $16 million with greater than $12 million lying in his campaign account.