The Political Report – July 21, 2023

Every cycle there are a few self-funding House candidates who don’t generate much attention when they initially enter their race but attract more notice after they file their quarterly fundraising reports, and 2024 is no exception.

Tech entrepreneur Joe Salerno, notes the New Jersey Globe, threw down $400,000 of his own money as he seeks the Democratic nod to face GOP Rep. Jeff Van Drew in the 2nd District. Salerno, who did not raise anything from donors, ended June with a $390,000 to $20,000 cash on hand lead over 2022 nominee Tim Alexander, who is running again following his 59-40 loss to Van Drew. The incumbent, who infamously left the Democratic Party in 2019, finished the quarter with $540,000 available in a South Jersey Shore seat that Donald Trump won 52-47.

Over in Virginia’s 7th, investor Bill Moher self-funded $350,000 for his campaign against Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, which accounts for almost all of the money he took in for the quarter. Moher is currently the only notable Republican running for this 53-46 Biden seat in the southern D.C. exurbs, and he trails the incumbent $1.2 million to $300,000 in cash on hand.

Meanwhile in the GOP primary to succeed retiring Rep. Victoria Spartz in Indiana’s safely red 5th District, trucking company owner Sid Mahant has unexpectedly thrown down $1 million of his own money months after state Rep. Chuck Goodrich provided the same amount to his own campaign. Goodrich, though, raised $280,000 from donors during the second quarter without doing any additional self-funding, and he ended June with a $1.2 million to $1 million cash on hand edge. A third Republican, Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings, had a mere $10,000 to spend.

Finally in Texas’ 32nd District, Alex Cornwallis is among the candidates seeking the Democratic nod for this dark blue Dallas seat a year after he badly lost the general election for a gerrymandered seat on the state Board of Education. Cornwallis has $100,000 in the bank after self-funding about that amount, though he still has considerably less available than two other candidates competing in the primary to succeed Senate candidate Colin Allred. State Rep. Julie Johnson holds a $390,000 to $320,000 advantage over trauma surgeon Brian Williams, though civil rights attorney Justin Moore has only $70,000 on hand.

MONTANA U.S. SENATOR. “Tim Sheehy, the Republican establishment’s favored candidate to take on Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), is emphasizing his experience as a rancher to build his credibility in Montana,” the Daily Beast reports.

“But Sheehy and his partners’ reputation may be a little spottier than he’d like to present. In fact, they failed to meet a bare minimum standard for every Montana rancher and farmer—one that is crucial to supporting the state’s agriculture and conservation programs.”

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. Suffolk University, polling for USA Today, tests Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown against each of his major Republican foes:

  • 45-45 vs. Secretary of State Frank LaRose
  • 46-43 vs. state Sen. Matt Dolan
  • 48-41 vs. businessman Bernie Moreno

The survey was completed days before LaRose launched his long-expected campaign on Monday.

LOUISIANA GOVERNOR. New campaign finance reports are in covering the period from April 8 to July 6, and far-right Attorney General Jeff Landry continues to hold a huge advantage with three months to go before the October all-party primary:

  • Attorney General Jeff Landry (R): $4.7 million raised, $9.2 million cash on hand
  • former state Chamber of Commerce head Stephen Waguespack (R): $1.4 million raised, $1.9 million cash on hand
  • Treasurer John Schroder (R): $220,000 raised, $2.2 million cash on hand
  • former state Secretary of Transportation Shawn Wilson (D): $560,000 raised, $590,000 cash on hand
  • Attorney Hunter Lundy (I): $150,000 raised, additional $700,000 self-funded, $2.1 million cash on hand
  • State Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R): $60,000 raised, $350,000 cash on hand
  • State Rep. Richard Nelson (R): $30,000 raised, $280,000 cash on hand

Landry, notes, raised $2 million of this $4.7 million haul through a coordinated campaign with his allies at the state GOP that, unlike candidates, isn’t subject to a $5,000 donation limit.

Neither is Waguespack’s allied super PAC, Reboot Louisiana, which raised $550,000 but spent a gigantic $2 million on ads promoting its candidate and attacking Landry during this three-month period. The group finished July 6 with only $270,000 left over, though the dark money group Delta Good Hand could supply it with more. The next reports are due Sept. 14.

“Dan Cox, the rightwinger who lost the Maryland governor’s race last year, has been telling the press that he doesn’t know who was behind a July 3 statement of candidacy in his name. He even said he alerted the Federal Election Commission to the matter,” the Daily Beast reports.

“It should be a short investigation: The person was the treasurer Cox had hired to do just that.”

“The Daily Beast has obtained emails and text messages that show Cox planned a congressional bid since at least mid-June.”

MISSOURI GOVERNOR. While Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft continues to look like the frontrunner over a year ahead of next year’s GOP primary, it was Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe’s side that finished the second quarter with a big cash edge. Kehoe and his allies at American Dream far outraised the secretary of state and his backers at Committee for Liberty PAC $1.2 million to $290,000, with state Sen. Bill Eigel and his BILL PAC also lapping Ashcroft by bringing in $800,000. (Eigel, who formed an exploratory committee last year, has yet to announce.)

Kehoe and his PAC finished June with a $4.1 million to $1.9 million cash on hand advantage over Ashcroft’s side, with Eigel’s forces having $1.1 million to spend. The prominent anti-abortion group Missouri Right to Life wasn’t deterred by this deficit, though, and it went ahead and endorsed Ashcroft Tuesday.

VIRGINIA U.S. SENATOR and 10th DISTRICT. Navy veteran Hung Cao announced Tuesday that he’d campaign for the GOP nod to take on Sen. Tim Kaine rather than seek a rematch against another Democratic incumbent, Rep. Jennifer Wexton. Cao last cycle raised $3.3 million for a campaign to take back a once-competitive Northern Virginia constituency that supported Biden 58-40 and held Wexton to a 53-47 victory, but he’ll face another tough task if he’s to give Kaine a real fight in a presidential year. Cao joins a field that includes Scott Parkinson, who served as an official at the far-right Club for Growth.

WEST VIRGINIA U.S. SENATOR. Jill Lawrence: “My theory based on the evidence to date is that ultimately, when Manchin announces his decision at year’s end, he will tell us he is running for re-election.”

“But first he will tease state and national Republicans with the prospect of an open Senate seat and/or a bipartisan No Labels ticket that polling shows would drain votes from President Joe Biden and elect the GOP nominee. If that is Donald Trump, it’s no stretch to predict disaster will follow.”

West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, who said Monday he’ll decide “next year” what he’s doing as he refused to rule out a third-party bid for president. However, his fundraising at least gives Senate Democrats some reason to be optimistic that he’ll try to stick around.

Manchin raised $1.2 million during the quarter, which is a big increase from his $240,000 take in the prior three months, and he finished June with $10.8 million in the bank. That quarterly take is similar to his $1.4 million haul during the comparable quarter six years ago, though he ended June of 2017 with a much smaller $3.5 million available.

Manchin also outpaced both of the Republicans running to unseat him: Gov. Jim Justice, who raised $940,000, and Rep. Alex Mooney, who brought in $410,000. Mooney, however, enjoys a $1.5 million to $810,000 cash on hand edge, though the wealthy Justice, who has yet to do any self-funding, could write himself a massive check at any time.

MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR. Democrat Brandon Presley saws a car in half in his new TV spot, which is his second of the race, to visualize how he’ll “take a saw to the cost of car tags and cut them in half.” Presley, who also says he’ll “axe the grocery tax,” does not mention Republican Gov. Tate Reeves in this commercial.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. Democrat-turned-independent Kyrsten Sinema doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to reveal whether she’ll seek a second term. Rep. Ruben Gallego, who had planned to challenge her in the Democratic primary before she left the party, outraised her $3.1 million to $1.6 million during the quarter. The chief sources of their funds differed notably: 56% of Gallego’s individual donors gave less than $200 while just 1% of Sinema’s did so. But despite Gallego raising more for the second straight quarter, Sinema still maintained a wide $10.8 million to $3.8 million advantage in cash on hand.

The only notable Republican in the race, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, was well behind with $600,000 raised and $340,000 available. Republicans and Democrats alike are all waiting to one 2022 gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, whose deliberations have largely frozen the GOP field.

UTAH U.S. SENATOR. Mitt Romney took in only $350,000 and banked $1.6 million ahead of what would likely be a competitive primary for Donald Trump’s least-favorite Republican. A confusing tea-leaf in Romney’s report indicates he rented his fundraising list consulting firm run by a former aide called Targeted Victory, which paid more than $710,000 for access. If the firm paid cash for the list, that would offer Romney’s campaign a sizable infusion. On the other hand, if you were about to start making use of your own fundraising list, would you actually want to rent it to someone else and risk burn-out?

Either way, at least one notable Republican does in fact look to be preparing for a bid: State House Speaker Brad Wilson, who formed what he described as an exploratory campaign in April, raised $1 million for his effort over the last three months. Wilson, who says he’ll decide whether to run sometime after Sept. 9, self-funded another $1.2 million, and he ended June with $2.1 million on hand. But Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, who has announced he’ll try to wrest the nomination from Romney, wasn’t so flush: The mayor raised just $170,000 and self-funded another $50,000, leaving him with $210,000 available to spend.

VERMONT U.S. SENATOR. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who told the New York Times in February that people asking whether he’ll seek a fourth term next year should “keep wondering.” That’s where we still are five months later. The Democratic-aligned independent’s fundraising doesn’t give us any solid clues about which way he’s leaning: Sanders raised only $640,000 this quarter, compared to $1.3 million at this point in his 2018 reelection bid, but his $9.7 million war chest is about twice as large as it was six years ago. And unlike each of his aforementioned colleagues, Sanders would be safe for reelection no matter how much money he raises.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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