Skip to content

Time Is Running Out for Senate Primaries Fundraising

Duckworth is a Democrat from Illinois. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Duckworth is a Democrat from Illinois. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

For several of this year’s competitive Senate primaries, the fourth quarter of 2015 was the last fundraising quarter before primary day.  

In Ohio, Illinois and North Carolina, voters go to the polls on March 15, a month before the next Federal Election Commission fundraising report deadline. In all three of those states, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has backed the better-known candidate, who, unsurprisingly, raised more money from October through December of 2015. In Illinois, Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth, the DSCC’s pick , raised $1.6 million, beating the $314,000 haul of her closest primary opponent, former Chicago Urban League CEO Andrea Zopp. State Sen. Napoleon Harris reportedly raised about $1 million. Notably for Duckworth, she again slightly out-raised  vulnerable GOP Sen. Mark S. Kirk and substantially narrowed the gap between their cash-on-hand totals.  

In Ohio, former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, whom the DSCC has endorsed , raised slightly more than $1 million to P.G. Sittenfeld’s $235,000. Strickland has fallen short of fundraising expectations, while his evolution on gun control has made him the subject of attacks from both the left and right. Sittenfeld, his young primary challenger, has a super PAC working on his behalf that raised $734,000 in its first three and a half months. The indestructible fundraising advantage in this race, however, still belongs to GOP Sen. Rob Portman, who’s sitting on more than $12 million in campaign cash.  

Republicans have an even earlier primary. Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby will face several challengers on March 1, the most serious of which has prompted him to spend millions of dollars on television advertising . Former Marine John McConnell raised $500,000 during the 4th quarter, according to his campaign. Shelby hasn’t released his haul, but he ended the 3rd quarter with $19 million in the bank .  

The next big Senate primary is on April 26 in Pennsylvania, which offers a three-way Democratic race among former Rep. Joe Sestak, former chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf Katie McGinty , and Braddock Mayor John Fetterman . McGinty raised $980,000 and has $1.2 million in the bank. She has the backing of EMILY’s List and, over the holidays, got a boost from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid when he sent a fundraising email on her behalf . Fetterman raised $158,000 and has $131,000 in the bank, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer . Sestak has not yet released his fundraising numbers, which were due to the FEC by Jan. 31.  

Senate candidates still file paper fundraising reports, which are not yet available on the FEC website. The early numbers that come from campaign press releases and local media reports don’t necessarily distinguish between money candidates have raised and money they’ve loaned their campaigns.  

Maryland Democrats also vote on April 26. Fourth District Rep. Donna Edwards has yet to go public with her numbers. Her Democratic primary opponent, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, raised $1.14 million and has $3.67 million in the bank. Fellow Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who had long been considering throwing his hat into the race for the open seat, decided Tuesday to seek re-election to the 7th District.  

The DSCC hasn’t made an endorsement in Maryland or in California, where Attorney General Kamala Harris raised $1.9 million and ended the fourth quarter with $4 million cash on hand — and $212,000 in debt, according to the Sacramento Bee . Rep. Loretta Sanchez boosted her Senate coffers by selling her old campaign headquarters , but she only raised $388,000 in the final quarter of the year. She has $2.1 million in the bank.  

The DSCC has gotten involved in Florida, where its pick, Rep. Patrick Murphy, continues to out-raise Rep. Alan Grayson for the seat that will be vacated by presidential hopeful Marco Rubio. Murphy brought in $1.46 million to Grayson’s $591,000. But as the 12th wealthiest member of Congress, according to Roll Call’s Wealth of Congress Index , Grayson could easily dip into his own coffers. So far, though, he’s proven relatively reticent to expend his personal fortune, only loaning his campaign $100,000 in the fourth quarter — the same amount as the previous quarter. Republicans have a crowded primary in the Sunshine State. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who has backing from conservative groups such as the Club for Growth, leads in 4th quarter hauls, while Rep. David Jolly has made headlines for saying he won’t personally raise money for his campaign. But like many other candidates, Jolly will have a super PAC helping him out . Florida’s primary isn’t until Aug. 30, though, so several fundraising quarters remain for the candidates to sort themselves out.  

Republicans also have a competitive primary in Indiana, where Sen. Dan Coats is retiring. Rep. Todd Young raised about $750,000, again out-raising Rep. Marlin Stutzman, while former Coats’ Chief of Staff Eric Holcomb took in only $60,000. Stutzman is the favorite of outside conservative groups, but he was conspicuously absent from the Club for Growth’s end-of-year fundraising email, and his $335,000 4th quarter total was significantly lower than the $619,000 haul he posted before an internal campaign shake-up deposed well-respected Republican consultants.  

The fourth quarter brought good news for Arizona Sen. John McCain. Although he raised less than $1 million , primary opponent state Sen. Kelli Ward has failed to gain traction with conservative outside groups and her fourth quarter haul decreased from her third quarter haul. Arizona’s primary is Aug. 30.  

Contact Pathé at

 and follow her on Twitter at 



Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

Recent Stories

Case highlights debate over ‘life of the mother’ exception

Supreme Court split on Idaho abortion ban in emergency rooms

Donald Payne Jr., who filled father’s seat in the House, dies at 65

Biden signs foreign aid bill, says weapons to be sent to allies within hours

Airlines must report fees, issue prompt refunds, new rules say

Capitol Ink | B Movie