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Battleground Senate hopefuls tout early fundraising strength

Record-setting spending likely with party control on the line

This week’s fundraising deadline is an early test for Senate candidates looking to separate themselves from other hopefuls and prove they can run competitive campaigns. 

Candidates must disclose fundraising and spending from July through September to the Federal Election Commission by midnight Friday. Some contenders are already releasing their fundraising hauls as an early sign of strength, with the midterm elections less than 13 months away. 

The battle for the Senate is expected to break spending records in 2022, since each race could make the difference in which party controls the chamber. Republicans need a net gain of just one seat to take back the majority. In 2020, the average winning Senate candidate spent $27.2 million on his or her race, up from $15.8 million in 2018, according to OpenSecrets. Outside groups spent a combined $1.5 billion on Senate races in 2020, more than double the $659 million spent in 2018.

With outside money once again expected to pour into top battlegrounds, candidates’ own fundraising is critical. A large campaign war chest can help them combat millions of dollars spent by outside groups, since candidates pay lower television ad rates.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates eight states as Senate battlegrounds, and several Senate candidates in those states launched their campaigns in the late spring and early summer. As a result, reports filed Friday will reflect their first full fundraising quarters as Senate contenders. Other candidates did not have a full quarter to fundraise because they launched their campaigns late in the summer, but some are still showing sizable fundraising numbers in just a few weeks. 

First full quarter

Florida Democratic Rep. Val B. Demings, who launched her Senate campaign against GOP Sen. Marco Rubio in mid-June, shortly before the end of the second quarter, clearly took advantage of having a full quarter to fundraise. She raised a whopping $8.4 million from July through September, according to the website Florida Politics, while Fox News reported that Rubio raised $6 million.

Demings’ total surpassed even Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, a prolific fundraiser who announced raising $7.3 million in the third quarter. 

Some of Kelly’s potential GOP opponents also faced their first full fundraising quarter over the last three months, but they still struggled to keep up with Kelly.

Energy executive Jim Lamon launched his Arizona Senate campaign in May. Attorney General Mark Brnovich and retired Maj. Gen. Mick McGuire both launched their campaigns in mid-June. McGuire and Lamon have yet to release their totals, but Brnovich announced that he raised more than $600,000. Blake Masters, who runs billionaire Peter Thiel’s investment firm and foundation, announced that he raised $1.1 million since kicking off his campaign in mid-July. 

The third quarter was also the first full three months of fundraising for GOP Army veteran Sean Parnell, who is running for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat with former President Doanld Trump’s backing. Parnell announced he raised $1.1 million from July through September, nearly doubling the $561,000 he raised in the first six weeks of his campaign. The haul could reflect a bump after Trump endorsed Parnell on Sept. 1. 

Early strength?

Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb was one of several Senate contenders who announced early fundraising hauls since launching Senate campaigns in the middle of the third quarter. 

Lamb, who kicked off his Senate run on Aug. 6, announced he raised more than $1.2 million in the first eight weeks of his campaign. But Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who has been in the race since February, has led the Democratic primary field in Pennsylvania, announcing that he raised $2.7 million in the second quarter. 

In Georgia, former football player Herschel Walker also tried to demonstrate his fundraising strength by announcing that he raised $3.7 million in the first five weeks of his campaign. Walker has Trump’s endorsement in the GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who has also proven to be a prolific fundraiser. 

Former Nevada GOP Attorney General Adam Laxalt did not have a full three months to fundraise since he launched his campaign in mid-August, but he still raised more than $1.4 million in his bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, according to Fox News. Laxalt’s GOP primary opponent, Army veteran Sam Brown, announced that his campaign raised “over $1 million” since its kickoff in July.

But Cortez Masto bested them both, raising nearly $3.2 million in the third quarter, and ending the quarter with $8.3 million in her campaign account. 

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