Democratic Senate candidates announce record-breaking Q2 fundraising

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Seven Democratic candidates vying to gain seats in the Senate have announced seven-figure fundraising results for the second quarter, shattering records and expectations more than a year before Election Day.

While Senate campaign fundraising reports do not have to be filed with the FEC until July 15, campaigns often announce their contribution totals early as a way to highlight fundraising success and attract attention to the campaign. These Democratic challengers have unveiled their sizable contributions and shed light on the financing of races that could decide the fate of the Senate in 2020 and beyond. At publication time, none of the Republican incumbents in competitive races have released their quarterly reports.

Mark Kelly, the former astronaut challenging Arizona GOP Sen. Martha McSally, announced Wednesday that his campaign raised a stunning $4.2 million in the second quarter, far outpacing expectations and even exceeding the first-quarter revenues of five presidential campaigns. Kelly’s campaign, which rejects corporate PAC money, received contributions from 85,000 individual donors with an average donation of slightly under $45. He has now raised a whopping $8.3 million since the campaign began.

Kelly is married to Gabby Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who was shot in the 2012 Tucson attack that killed six and wounded 19. Kelly has the backing of Giffords PAC as well as 314 Action Fund, a liberal group that seeks to elect more candidates from STEM backgrounds.

McSally has not yet revealed her second quarter fundraising totals. During the 2018 Senate campaign, which she would ultimately lose to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), McSally raised $2.7 million in the second quarter of 2018. She was appointed to Arizona’s vacant Senate seat by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey after the death of Sen. John McCain and resignation of replacement Sen. Jon Kyl.

In neighboring New Mexico, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) announced a $1.1 million fundraising haul, claiming it to be the largest sum ever raised in a single quarter by a New Mexico Senate candidate. His campaign reported that more than 97 percent of that total came from donations of $100 or less and 13,000 donors contributed overall. 

Lujan is one of three declared Democrats running to replace Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), who announced his plans to not seek reelection in March. Only one Republican –– Gavin Clarkson, a former Trump administration official in the Bureau of Indian Affairs –– has entered the race thus far.

In Colorado, not one but two Democratic challengers made headlines with seven-figure fundraising hauls: former state representative Mike Johnston and former diplomat Dan Baer. In the second quarter alone, Johnston raised $1.6 million and Baer $1.35 million. They are among  14 candidates vying to win the Democratic nomination and take on Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), a vulnerable Republican in a state which Hillary Clinton won by five percentage points. Gardner reported a strong $2 million dollar haul in the first quarter of 2019.

Baer’s campaign also touts that Baer’s $1.1 million dollar initial quarter haul is a record for an LGBTQ congressional candidate. Baer is openly gay.

On the other side of the country, the South Carolina senatorial race, considered by Cook Political Report to be a solid Republican seat, has been complicated by Jaime Harrison, a Democratic challenger who raised $1.5 million this quarter, the most ever for a Democratic senatorial candidate in the state. Graham’s first quarter was the most successful of his entire career, with over $2 million raised.

Harrison campaign manager Zack Carroll told Greenville News, “We’re building a campaign unlike anything (Sen.) Lindsey Graham has faced before, built on an incredible outpouring of support from grassroots donors and volunteers.”

Harrison, a top DNC official and former Podesta Group lobbyist, has been endorsed by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden.

To the north, where Sen. Susan Collins (D-Maine) has suffered a 17-point decline in approval ratings since last spring, challenger Sara Gideon reported raising more than $1 million dollars in just her first week in the race. The Democratic speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, Gideon blasted Collins for supporting the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh and the 2017 tax bill. Collins’ eventual opponent will benefit from a $4 million CrowdPac fund created by three Maine organizations after the Kavanaugh vote.

 Candidates in Iowa and Texas also have reportedly brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars over the first month of their campaigns.

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