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Trump targets outraise challengers, unlike some other incumbents

Millions continue to come from 'small' donors in first quarter

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., brought in more money than her Trump-backed Republican challenger in the first three months of 2022.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., brought in more money than her Trump-backed Republican challenger in the first three months of 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republicans in Congress targeted for defeat by former President Donald Trump posted strong fundraising numbers during the first three months of the year, while a handful of other vulnerable House incumbents from both parties raised less than potential opponents, new disclosures show.

The disclosures to the Federal Election Commission also show that House candidates raising more than $1 million in just three months is not the phenomenon it once was. And some of those crossing that threshold are getting a lot of it from donors giving small amounts.

Trump favorites lag

Challengers backed by Trump in six House districts and one Senate race all raised less than the targeted incumbents during the first quarter. Nevertheless, several of the challengers have ample resources to compete, especially in states with comparatively low-cost media markets.

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who was ousted from the House GOP leadership for refusing to support Trump’s false claim of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, raised more than $2.9 million and finished the quarter with $6.8 million. Harriet Hageman, the water and natural resources lawyer who is backed by Trump, raised $1.3 million, including $36,500 from Cheney’s Republican colleagues in the House, such as Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California. Hageman ended the quarter with nearly $1.1 million on hand.

Similarly, Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski raised $1.6 million and had $5.3 million on March 31, compared with $673,000 raised and $968,000 cash on hand for Trump-backed former state government official Kelly Tshibaka. 

Some other incumbents’ advantages were smaller. Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer raised $553,000, compared to the $123,000 raised by opponent John Gibbs, a former acting assistant secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Trump administration. In Washington state, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler raised $605,000, while Trump-backed former Green Beret Joe Kent raised $457,000. 

Cheney, Meijer and Herrera Beutler all voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, riot by his supporters trying to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s election. Murkowski voted to convict him after the impeachment trial.

South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice, who voted with a majority of House Republicans against certifying electoral votes but then voted to impeach Trump, also outraised his Trump-backed challenger, Russell Fry, $342,000 to $268,000. But William Richardson topped the field with $613,000 raised, including a $500,000 personal loan to his campaign. 

Rice ended the quarter with nearly $2 million in his account, compared with Fry’s $448,000 and Richardson’s $274,000.

Another South Carolina Republican, Rep. Nancy Mace, raised $863,000 to Trump-backed former Rep. Katie Arrington’s $814,000, though Arrington’s total included a personal loan to her campaign of $525,000. Mace opposed impeachment but voted to support the creation of an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot. 

Mace, who responded to Trump’s endorsement of Arrington by shooting a video outside Trump Tower in New York outlining her record of supporting some of the former president’s policies, had $2 million in her account on March 31 to Arrington’s $754,000.

Trump is also backing West Virginia Rep. Alex X. Mooney in his GOP primary battle with Rep. David McKinley, and McKinley narrowly won the fundraising race in the first quarter, taking in $482,000 to Mooney’s $465,000. But Mooney ended the quarter with $1.4 million, while McKinley had less than $1.1 million.

Incumbents outraised

Three House Democrats facing primaries from the left — Henry Cuellar of Texas, Danny Davis of Illinois and Carolyn Maloney of New York — raised less than their opponents between January and March but still finished the quarter with more money on hand.

Cuellar, who faces a May 24 runoff after finishing just 1,005 votes ahead of attorney Jessica Cisneros in the March 1 primary, took in $900,000 during the quarter to Cisneros’ $2.4 million. Cuellar had $1.4 million at the end of the quarter on March 31, while Cisneros had $1 million. 

Davis raised almost half of what challenger Kina Collins raised, $67,000 to her $128,000, but had $544,000 at the end of the quarter to her $125,000. Maloney, who chairs the Oversight & Reform Committee, raised $457,000 and had $1.1 million in her account, compared to challenger Suraj Patel’s $653,000 raised and $544,000 in cash on hand. Maloney defeated Patel in the 2020 primary by less than 4 percentage points.

Beyond primaries, some 80 districts are being targeted by one party or the other, and 61 of them have incumbents running. In that group, at least three Republicans and four Democrats raised less during the quarter than a potential opponent.

They include Republicans Steve Chabot of Ohio, Nicole Malliotakis of New York and Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa; and Democrats Julia Brownley of California, Kathy Castor of Florida, Frank J. Mrvan of Indiana and Tom O’Halleran of Arizona.

Chabot took in $197,000 to Greg Landsman’s $533,000. Malliotakis raised $706,000 to former Rep. Max Rose’s $1 million. And Miller-Meeks’ $440,000 was surpassed by Christina Bohannan’s $514,000.

Among Democrats, Brownley was outraised by Matthew Jacobs, $324,000 to $237,000; Castor by Jay Collins, $401,000 to $324,000; Mrvan by Blair Milo, $208,000 to $178,000; and O’Halleran by Eli Crane, $650,000 to $579,000.

When challengers putting large sums of their own money into the race are included, Michigan Democrat Dan Kildee also joins the list. Kildee raised $869,000, but Republican Paul Junge put $1.1 million of his own fortune into the race to bring his first quarter total to $1.3 million.

All of the incumbents had more money in their accounts on March 31 than their potential challengers, however. Brownley had the biggest edge, with $3.8 million to Jacobs’ $806,000; while Chabot had the smallest, with $582,000 to Landsman’s $418,000.

$1 meh-llion?

In the first quarter of 2020, the comparable period in the last campaign, 18 House candidates reported raising more than $1 million. This year there were at least 18 Democrats alone, along with 13 Republicans, when candidates writing big checks to their own campaigns were excluded. 

Topping the list were familiar names from the House leadership or frequent cable news appearances. Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and Speaker Nancy Pelosi topped the list for the Democrats, raising $3.8 million and $3.4 million, respectively. McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise led the Republicans, with $4.6 million and $3.5 million, respectively. 

Schiff reported that more than 55 percent of what he raised, or over $2.1 million, came from contributors giving $200 or less. Such so-called small donors gave McCarthy 38 percent of his total, or $1.8 million.

But the list also included Marcus Flowers, who is vying to challenge lightning rod Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia’s 14th District. He raised $2.4 million, with 81 percent coming in amounts of $200 or less. 

On the GOP side, nonincumbents breaking the million-dollar mark included Texan Wesley Hunt, who is running for the open 38th District seat and raised $1.3 million, and Californian Kevin Kiley, who is seeking the open 3rd District seat and raised $1.1 million. Hunt got 30 percent from so-called small donors, while Kiley got 34 percent.

Stephanie Akin contributed to this report.

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