DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has nearly twice as much cash in the bank as his Republican rival Jeff Johnson, but in the past two months Johnson's fundraising narrowly outpaced the incumbent's, according to figures released Tuesday.
Dayton, who is relying on others to fund his campaign for the first time in his long political career, has $1.7 million stocked away for the final few weeks of his re-election campaign, compared with Johnson's $866,000.
Johnson, however, has quickened the pace of his fundraising since winning a competitive four-way primary in August. The Hennepin County commissioner raised $620,000 from donors since late July. That beat Dayton's summer fundraising by $100,000.
"Our fundraising really took off after the primary — particularly after Labor Day — we are on track to meet our financial goals and our television ads will be up on the air very soon," Johnson said in a statement.
Boosted by state subsidies they gained from agreeing to abide by spending limits, Dayton and Johnson netted $1 million since late July. The campaigns released their fundraising figures on Tuesday, a day before the state's campaign finance agency will make the numbers public.
According to the limits, Dayton can spend no more than $3.7 million on his campaign. Given what he has already spent in the past two years, he has about $2.5 million more spending permitted. Johnson has received a nearly $400,000 subsidy from the state for agreeing to spend no more than $4.4 million total on his campaign.
"The Mark Dayton for a Better Minnesota campaign is in a strong position to get out its message of strengthening the middle class, improving education and making government work better for all Minnesotans," the Dayton campaign said in a statement.
Some of Dayton's remaining cash has already gone out the door.
TV ads launched
This week Dayton launched an aggressive television ad campaign with a hockey-themed spot that describes the governor, a former hockey goalie, as a "Darn Good Coach."
"A few years ago, things in Minnesota weren't going very well. So we got a new coach," the narrator, wearing hockey garb says in the ad. The ad goes on to brag about the tax cuts put in place in 2014. It does not mention that under Dayton's direction, the state raised income taxes on high earners in 2013.
Johnson's campaign has yet to purchase any ad time, but Johnson has said he will be on the air before October.
The figures released by the Johnson campaign show that he spent less than $300,000 in the past two months, which overlaps the August 12 primary date.
A recent Star Tribune Minnesota Poll gave Dayton a double digit edge for re-election.
The poll also found that Johnson was little known by the Minnesota electorate and that many in the race were undecided, despite Dayton's near-universal name recognition.
Johnson, who lost his statewide race for attorney general in 2006, has said he hopes television ads will help turn those numbers around and narrow the race.
Johnson has been raising money at the rate of about $10,000 per day since July 21, but that puts him far short of his initial goal. The GOP candidate said in June that he would need between $2.5 million and $3 million to win the general election.
Figures released Tuesday indicate that the party campaigns for the Minnesota House may be more expensive than the battle for control of the governor's office.
The DFL House's campaign arm raised more than $930,000 in the past two months and has raised about $3.7 million since January. It already has spent more than $2 million and has $1.5 million cash on hand. Those figures put the DFL on pace to best the caucus' 2012 fundraising, when the party wrested control of the House from Republicans.
"The outpouring of support for the House DFL Caucus and our candidates this year has been overwhelming," said House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.
The House Republican Caucus raised $374,000 in the past two months and just under $2 million for the election cycle.
Outside groups could help narrow the gap between the two House groups. In 2012, political action committees, nonprofits and other political groups spent more than $7 million on House campaigns, with the Democratic interest groups spending more than Republican ones.
This year, Republicans have pledged to do things differently and pool their resources to take back the House.