New fundraising reports show that two weeks before the primary, gubernatorial candidate Scott Honour is leading the Republican pack with more than $500,000 cash on hand — as much as his three rivals combined.
Honour’s finances have been aided by his willingness to pour part of his personal fortune into the race. The investment banker and first-time candidate has lent his campaign $900,000 in addition to raising that much from donors.
In a memo to supporters Tuesday, Honour campaign consultant Pat Shortridge bragged that the final pre-primary reports “show one thing unmistakably: Scott Honour is the only candidate with the money, message, and campaign infrastructure to defeat Mark Dayton. Honour dominates his Republican opponents and is very competitive with the governor.”
The heated four-way race to become the Republican nominee has stretched on for a year now, draining the candidates’ resources and causing them to spend money nearly as quickly as they can bring it in.
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, Rep. Kurt Zellers and former Rep. Marty Seifert lack the personal wealth to invest in their campaigns and have seen the contested primary cause some would-be donors to hold back.
“We thought that people would be raising a lot more money, and if you look at all four of us, other than Honour’s contribution, people are sitting on their money,” Johnson said.
Sizing up the DFL
Meanwhile, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is waiting with about $850,000 on hand to aim at whoever does come through. With no DFL opponent, Dayton has spent nearly $1 million setting up his re-election campaign, and the new figures indicate that the GOP nominee will have major fundraising work to do in attempting to unseat a vulnerable but still favored incumbent.
DFLers also have more party cash on their side than Republicans, but outside interest groups, which have become increasingly key factors in Minnesota races, help even the cash score. Those outside groups, which had been slowly raising cash in preparation for the 2014 elections, began piling on money in earnest this summer. Since June 1, the largest independent spending groups raised more than $2.6 million.
Dayton may be a particular beneficiary. Although Dayton self-financed his first gubernatorial victory, he is raising money from others for his re-election and has squirreled away much of it for the coming fight.
“The campaign has managed its resources to have flexibility as we head toward the general election, and we’ll be ready to use them for when they will have the greatest impact,” Dayton campaign manager Katharine Tinucci said.
Johnson, who carries his party’s endorsement, has fallen well short of the $1 million goal he initially set for a primary run. Reports show he has raised $482,000 since entering the race and has about $123,000 on hand.
Zellers raised $669,000 and had $145,000 cash on hand, while Seifert raised $328,000 and had $71,000 left over.
But the Minnesota Republican party groups are catching up. After years of whittling down debt, the state party now has $435,000 in debt remaining in its state committee, which is nearly $100,000 less than it owned at the end of May.
The state DFL has raised more than $2 million, aided by the DFL House and Senate caucuses. The state Republican Party has raised about half that. The state DFL Party has also spent about $600,000 more than the Republicans and has a little less than twice the GOP’s cash on hand and with no major debt.
The DFL edge in the House party committees is even more stark.
For the Republican and Democratic battle for control of the House in this election, the DFL House committee has amassed almost three times what the Republican House campaign committee has in fundraising. The DFL campaign arm has about twice as much cash on hand as the Republicans’ and has spent about twice more than the Republican rival committee.
Nonparty groups lead
But both Republican and DFLers will be challenged to keep up with nonparty groups’ spending.
So far, the biggest outside groups have raised at least $15 million since the 2012 election. The big DFL and Republican campaign arms have raised only about $12 million.
In 2012, for the first time, those outside interest groups surpassed what candidates themselves spent on the election.
Education Minnesota, the state’s teachers union, is leading in fundraising among outside groups, with $1.8 million already raised. Union-affiliated political action committees (PACs) have raised more than $4.6 million to train on the 2014 election. Much of that will benefit DFL candidates, and the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, which, with its supporters, has already brought in more than $1.8 million.
By comparison, Republican-leaning outside groups have raised $2.6 million. The largest among them, the Freedom Club, began a major television ad campaign against Dayton in July.
Much of that money from both sides will be sprinkled across legislative districts to influence the heated battle for control of the Minnesota House. House candidates also are fighting for their own seats. Some races in contested districts or with competitive primaries have topped the $100,000 mark in spending.
Among those is the race to represent in Eden Prairie. That battle features a competitive Republican primary between Deputy House Majority Leader Jenifer Loon, who voted to legalize same-sex marriage last year, and longtime GOP activist Sheila Kihne.
Loon has raised more than $84,000, and a business- supported PAC has raised $17,000 to help her. Kihne brought in just under $25,000 and has major support from the Minnesota Family Council.
On Tuesday, Loon announced that she would use some of her cash to run cable television ads in advance of the primary.
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Twitter: @RachelSB
Glenn Howatt Twitter: @GlennHowatt