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FEC reports shine light on Super Tuesday primaries

Self-funders wrote big checks, but small donors also gave millions and PACs made picks

Republican candidate Scott Baugh, who narrowly lost a race in California’s 47th District in 2022, has the most money of any candidate ahead of the March 5 primary.
Republican candidate Scott Baugh, who narrowly lost a race in California’s 47th District in 2022, has the most money of any candidate ahead of the March 5 primary. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With five states — including the two most populous, California and Texas — holding congressional primaries on March 5, voters will have a chance to set the November matchups for more than one-quarter of the House and two battleground Senate races.

Pre-primary disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission this week showed who was hot with donors giving small amounts or PACS writing bigger checks, who was leaning heavily on their own wealth, and who had the most cash for the final sprint toward Super Tuesday.

Here’s some takeaways from the latest disclosures, which cover receipts and expenditures from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14 for key races:

Alabama members face off

In Alabama’s 1st District, Rep. Jerry Carl faces a Republican primary challenge from fellow Rep. Barry Moore after redistricting moved Moore’s hometown into the 1st District. Carl had $595,000 on hand as of Feb. 14, while Moore had $214,000. Carl outraised Moore in the first six weeks of the year, taking in $249,000 to Moore’s $172,000.

While Carl raised more money from small-dollar donors than Moore, Moore had the edge in fundraising from PACs. Carl raised $16,000 from donors giving less than $200, while Moore raised $4,300. Carl raised $23,000 from PACs and candidate committees, and Moore raised $39,000.

Self funders pour it on 

At least 36 candidates loaned a combined $9.6 million to their campaigns during the six-week period, including two Republicans running in a crowded field for the nomination to an open seat in North Carolina’s 13th District that was redrawn to favor the GOP. 

Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel won the 13th District under the previous map in 2022 by 3 percentage points, defeating Republican Bo Hines. But Nickel decided to run for Senate in 2026 after the Republican-controlled legislature redrew the state’s map. 

Under the new lines, the 13th District would have backed Donald Trump over Joe Biden in 2020 by 17 percentage points, and there are 14 Republicans on the ballot, including a handful who are not shy about putting their personal wealth into the race. 

The latest reports show attorney Kelly Daughtry loaned her campaign $2.1 million, while businessman Fred Von Canon loaned nearly $1.2 million, on top of $700,000 Von Canon previously put into the race. A third candidate, Brad Knott, loaned another $100,000 to his campaign, on top of $150,000 loaned last year.

Hines is running in the 6th District this year for a seat Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning opted not to defend after redistricting. The latest reports show Hines loaned his campaign an additional $500,000 this year, on top of $112,000 last year. But the reports show Hines with $114,000 in his campaign account on Feb. 14, behind former Rep. Mark Walker ($276,000) and retired Green Beret Christian Castelli ($460,000).

North Carolina’s 8th District, which is open because Rep. Dan Bishop is running for state attorney general, also saw three of the six Republican candidates tap their own funds, led by the $750,000 loaned to his campaign by former Union County Commissioner Allan Baucom. That brought Baucom’s total for the campaign to $1 million and put him ahead in cash-on-hand at the end of the period with $569,000 to state Rep. John Bradford’s $349,000. Bradford did not put more of his own money into the race this year, but loaned his campaign $1.3 million last year.

In California’s 31st District, meanwhile, former Rep. Gil Cisneros put another $2 million into his campaign for the retiring Rep. Grace F. Napolitano’s seat. Cisneros, who won a $266 million lottery prize in 2010 and served one term before being ousted in 2020 by Republican Young Kim in what was then the 39th District, previously loaned his latest comeback campaign $2.4 million. 

Ten candidates are running in the 31st District primary, and the two top vote-getters will face off in November. Attorney Greg Hafif loaned his campaign an additonal $100,000 on top of $500,000 previously, and had the most cash at the end of the period with $270,000. Two of the contenders had previously put their own money into the race, former Monrovia Mayor Mary Ann Lutz, who loaned $505,000, and state Sen. Bob Archuleta, who loaned $225,000, did not put more into their accounts.

In the 49th District, where Democratic Rep. Mike Levin is being targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee, four Republicans had put their own money into the race last year, and two put in more this year.  Former news executive Margarita Wilkinson loaned another $500,000, bringing her total to nearly $1.5 million, while auto dealer Matt Gunderson put in another $200,000, bringing his total to $700,000. 

More than a dozen candidates running in March 5 primaries have self-funded 90 percent or more of what they are spending on their campaigns. Along with Baucom, Cisneros, Daughtry and Von Canon, they include “Boy Meets World” actor Ben Savage, who is one of 15 candidates running in California’s 30th District. Savage previously put more than $1.3 million of his own money into the race as loans and contributions, but did not add to that total this year, when his total receipts through Feb. 14 were just $3,400.

Allred’s advantage dips

As the year began, Democratic Rep. Colin Allred had $3.9 million more in his campaign account than the Republican he is hoping to unseat in Texas in November, Sen. Ted Cruz. The latest reports show that while Allred continued to take in more than Cruz — the Democrat raised nearly $3 million to the Republican’s $2.4 million — his lead in cash on hand on Feb. 14 dropped to $1.9 million.

That’s because Allred has a primary challenger on March 5, state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, and the latest filing showed Allred spending $4.5 million on campaign operations during the first six weeks of the year. It dwarfed the $388,000 Gutierrez spent, and outlays that get him in front of statewide voters may pay benefits to Allred in November. But the expenditures still ate into one advantage he had in a fall race that’s rated Likely Republican by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.

Small donations add up

In the California Senate race alone, donors giving amounts of $200 or less during the first six weeks of the year gave nearly $3.8 million. Rep. Katie Porter took in $1.5 million in what the FEC calls unitemized donations, topping Democratic Reps. Adam B. Schiff’s $1.3 million and Barbara Lee’s $144,000. On the Republican side, former Dodgers and Padres first baseman Steve Garvey raised $837,000 from small donors and attorney Eric Early raised $39,000.

In the Texas race, Allred was the top recipient of so-called small donations during the period, taking in $1.4 million, while Cruz took in $1.1 million and Gutierrez, $132,000.

California battlegrounds take shape

One candidate who also did not add to his self-funding total was Democrat George Whitesides, the former CEO of Virgin Galactic running in California’s 27th District who had previously put in $1.3 million of his own money into trying to unseat Republican Rep. Mike Garcia. Whitesides’ latest filing shows that all of the $575,000 taken in since Jan. 1 came from donors, including $102,000 from those giving less than $200. Garcia brought in about $216,000 during the same six-week period. That race is rated a Toss-up by Inside Elections.

In one of California’s bitterest primary battles for the seat Porter is giving up to run for Senate, Joanna Weiss outraised Democratic opponent Dave Min, $591,000 to $179,000. But both candidates are poised to enter the general election with far less than Scott Baugh, the Republican competing for the open seat in California’s 47th District. Baugh had $1.7 million in his campaign account, as of Feb. 14. That race is rated Tilt Democratic.

In the heated four-way brawl in California’s 22nd District, the favored candidates of their respective parties continue to squash their intra-party opponents. Democratic state Sen. Melissa Hurtado raised just $13,000, far less than her fellow Democrat, the DCCC-backed Rudy Salas, who brought in $251,000. On the Republican side, farmer Chris Mathys raised less than $2,000. Rep. David Valadao, a Republican who beat Salas by 3 points in 2022, raised $113,000 and had $1.3 million in the bank. That race is rated Tilt Republican.

Will Rollins, the Democratic challenger in another key race, outpaced his Republican opponent, Rep. Ken Calvert, who has been in Congress since 1993. Rollins, who narrowly lost the 41st District seat to Calvert in 2022, brought in $723,000 to Calvert’s $296,000. Rollins had $2.4 million on hand; Calvert had $2.3 million. That race is rated Lean Republican.

PACs make picks

The candidate former Speaker Kevin McCarthy is backing to succeed him in California’s 20th District, Republican Vince Fong, took in the most donations during the six-week period from PACs and political committees, including campaign funds of other GOP candidates. 

Overall, Fong raised $162,000 from committees, or about one-quarter of the $661,000 he raised during the six-week period.

Another top recipient during the period was Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who raised $69,000 of her $164,000 in total receipts from committees, including corporate and union PACs and the campaign account of House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. 

Jackson Lee spent much of last year running for mayor of Houston, and got back in the race for her seat after losing the mayoral runoff in December. Former Houston City Councilmember Amanda Edwards, who had been running for the seat for much of last year, raised $179,000 during the first six weeks of this year, and entered the final stretch of the primary race with $669,000 to Jackson Lee’s $225,000.

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