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Democratic House Challengers Raise More Than Senate Candidates

New Jersey’s Mikie Sherrill raised $1.9 million in second quarter

New Jersey Democrat Mikie Sherrill raised nearly $1.9 million in the second quarter in her quest to flip a longtime GOP House seat. (Courtesy Mikie Sherrill for U.S. Congress)
New Jersey Democrat Mikie Sherrill raised nearly $1.9 million in the second quarter in her quest to flip a longtime GOP House seat. (Courtesy Mikie Sherrill for U.S. Congress)

It used to be normal for fundraising by Senate candidates to dwarf that of House candidates. Not this year.

New Jersey’s Mikie Sherrill, a Democrat trying to flip a longtime Republican stronghold, raised nearly $1.9 million during the second quarter of the year.

That’s more than at least one Democratic senator facing a competitive re-election and at least five Republicans running for Senate in competitive races this year.

Sherrill, a first-time candidate, isn’t the only Democratic House challenger who raised just as much or more than Senate hopefuls this year. At least 11 others have raised nearly $1.1 million or more.

By comparison, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III raised just $1.5 million during the same period. And his GOP challenger, who had to spend money in a nasty May primary, raised even less. To be fair, the New Jersey House districts where Democrats posted big numbers are more affluent than the Mountain State. 

But the enormous fundraising totals posted by some House challengers in traditionally red districts — and the fact that they nearly meet or exceed those of a handful of competitive Senate candidates — captures just how much energy there is among Democrats about winning the House in November. 

Figures like Sherrill’s, said Democratic fundraising consultant Mike Fraioli, show that candidates are going beyond their “love money” — the early money that flows from friends and family but then dries up with subsequent fundraising quarters.

ICYMI: Fundraising Reports Say a Lot About a Campaign

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Meagre Senate hauls 

Among the lowest fundraising totals of GOP Senate candidates in top-tier races was Matt Rosendale’s in Montana.

The state auditor raised just $1 million, according to his campaign. (Senate reports are not yet available on the Federal Election Commission website.) About 20 Democratic House challengers, excluding self-funders, raised the same amount or more.

Rosendale is challenging Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, whose campaign reported raising $3 million for the race Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates Tilts Democratic. Rosendale, unlike Tester, had to spend in the GOP primary.

In Minnesota, Republican Karin Housley also raised $1 million for a Likely Democratic race against appointed Democratic Sen. Tina Smith.

Other Senate totals that Democratic House challengers surpassed?

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey raised just shy of $1.3 million for his challenge to Manchin, a race rated Tilts Democratic. Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Lou Barletta raised $1.3 million for his Likely Democratic race against Democratic Sen. Bob Casey.

In North Dakota, where the Senate race is now rated Tilts Republican, GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer raised $1.5 million for his bid to unseat Democratic incumbent Heidi Heitkamp, who raised $1.9 million. 

That means Sherrill, the New Jersey House candidate, raised just as much as a senator who’s arguably the Democrats’ most vulnerable incumbent.

Sherrill also raised about the same amount as Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, another vulnerable Democrat who’s in a Toss-up race, and Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who’s challenging Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. The Republican Senate candidate was supposed to be a top recruit this cycle but has struggled with fundraising.

Fundraising totals mean different things in different places. Sherrill is running in the 11th District, an affluent suburban community that theoretically gives her a more cash-flush base than either Heitkamp or Donnelly — and she’ll need the money in the expensive New York City media market. Advertising dollars go further in many of the red states where Democratic senators are up for re-election. 

Powerhouse Democrats

Besides Sherrill, other Democratic House candidates in New Jersey posted strong numbers too.

Tom Malinowski raised $1.3 million for his bid for the 7th District against GOP Rep. Leonard Lance. Andy Kim, who’s challenging Republican incumbent Tom MacArthur in the 3rd District, raised just over $1 million. Although not a challenger, freshman Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer, who flipped a Republican seat in 2016, raised $1.5 million in the 5th District.

It wasn’t just Democrats in the Garden State who raised more than $1.1 million during the second quarter. They had some company from California hopefuls. In the 22nd District, Andrew Janz raised nearly $1.5 million to take on Rep. Devin Nunes in another longtime Republican seat. (Nunes, meanwhile, raised $4.8 million during the same period.) And in the 10th District, Josh Harder raised nearly $1.3 million. He’s trying to unseat GOP Rep. Jeff Denham in a Tilts Republican race. Katie Hill, the Democrat running against GOP Rep. Steve Knight in California’s 25th District, raised slightly more than $1.3 million. That race is also rated Tilts Republican

Democratic women in Texas also posted high numbers, with MJ Hegar, who’s running in a Solid Republican race against Republican incumbent John Carter, raising nearly $1.2 million, and Gina Ortiz Jones, who’s challenging GOP Rep. Will Hurd in a Toss-up race, raised more than $1.2 million. In Wisconsin, Randy Bryce raised $1.2 million for a Leans Republican open-seat race, as did Amy McGrath in Kentucky for her challenge to GOP Rep. Andy Barr, also rated Leans Republican.

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