By Jim Ellis
July 22, 2019 — The second quarter campaign financials are now public, and already candidates in both parties have raised millions of dollars in preparation for hard-hitting 2020 US Senate campaigns. And, the two most prolific fundraising candidates from April through June are actually running against each other.
Topping the campaign receipts category with $4.21 million raised for the quarter is retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D), who is an Arizona Senate candidate. Close behind, with $3.34 million obtained during the same three-month period, is Kelly’s general election opponent, appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R). Obviously, with each candidate already holding between $4.3 million (McSally) and $5.9 million (Kelly) in their political committee accounts, this Arizona campaign will almost assuredly set a statewide campaign spending record in 2020.
Of the 30 Senate incumbents presumed to be actively seeking re-election next year, 21 raised over $1 million in the quarter, and four obtained more than $2 million. Two others topped $3 million in receipts. In addition to Sen. McSally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) raised just over the $3 million mark.
Another senator, Cory Booker (D-NJ), reports raising no money during the quarter for his Senate campaign because he is running for president.
Overall, the Republican candidates’ aggregate figure was higher than the Democrats in the second quarter ($33.3 to $29.8 million) and for the entire cycle through June 30 ($105.7 to $79.2 million). This is likely because the Republicans have more incumbents on the ballot in the current cycle, 19 to 11, in addition to defending three of the four open seats.
The cash-on-hand category is, of course, highly important. Here, three Republicans lead the category. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who faces the largest electorate in any 2020 Senate campaign, leads the cash category with just over $9 million in the bank. In no surprise, Senate Majority Leader McConnell has the second most, with $7.9 million. Third is South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham with $6.5 million.
The Democrat holding the highest number of dollars is again challenger Mark Kelly in Arizona. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, who surprisingly had a close call in 2014, is the Democratic incumbent holding the most cash: $5.4 million.
The incumbent with the least amount of money, not counting Sen. Booker who is using his federal dollars in the presidential campaign, is Mississippi Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith at $462,000. Her second quarter receipt figure is likely even more disconcerting for the GOP leadership: $415,000.
Some surprises occurred in the challenger category. In addition to Kelly in Arizona, another Democratic candidate who exceeded expectations was Colorado former state Sen. Mike Johnston who hopes to challenge Sen. Cory Gardner (R) next year. He raised $1.6 million and has $2.6 million on hand, far better than any of the 11 other Democratic candidates in that primary campaign. The Colorado incumbent, Sen. Gardner, raised just under $2 million and has $4.9 million in his campaign account.
Another surprise is the likely Democratic opponent for Sen. Graham, former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jamie Harrison, who reported raising over $1.5 million for the quarter with just under $1.5 million remaining on hand.
The top Republican challenger candidate is Michigan businessman and retired Army Ranger John James who also attracted $1.5 million in the quarter and now has over $1.7 million in his campaign account. James announced his candidacy in early June, so his receipt sum is impressive for that amount of time. His cash number is higher than the amount raised because he was able to carry over a balance from his 2018 Senate campaign when he challenged and lost 52-46 percent to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D).
Even more impressive is Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon (D) who is challenging Sen. Susan Collins (R). She announced in late June, and mostly through online contributions, immediately topped $1 million raised.
Another candidate of note, former Alabama state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who also announced for the Senate in late June, didn’t fare so well. He reports only raising $17,000 and has just $16,000 cash-on-hand.
The campaigns will change greatly in the coming months, but the early money figures give us an important clue as to who will run strong, and which candidates might perform in disappointing fashion.