House Republicans and their rivals in the DFL Party have raised more than $1 million in what is already emerging as an intense battle for control of the Minnesota House in November.
“House Republicans are proud of what we accomplished at the Capitol in 2015 and grateful for the confidence Minnesotans have placed in our leadership,” said Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown. “Thanks to Minnesotans’ continued support, we will have the resources to build on our majority in November.”
Daudt is leading Republicans’ fight to hold control of the House, as DFLers try to expand their power in the Capitol. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is not up for re-election and Senate DFLers hold a sizable majority heading into the election year.
The House has swung back and forth in recent election cycles, with the GOP taking control in 2014 by flipping 11 seats. The new campaign contribution reports underscore that the two sides are preparing for an expensive fight.
“Our strong fundraising in 2015 is proof that Minnesotans are ready to fight for an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy special interests and those at the very top,” said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.
Both sides are currently relying on big contributions, often of $2,500 or more.
The DFL received support in large chunks from organized labor — and public employee unions in particular — but also won donations from some businesses and wealthy individuals, including $100,000 from Alida Messinger, a significant DFL donor and the ex-wife of Dayton.
The House Republican Campaign Committee took in nearly 90 contributions greater than $2,500, including $25,000 each from broadcasting mogul Stanley Hubbard, former Target CEO Robert Ulrich, the Prairie Island Indian Community PAC, and Justine and Dr. Robert Haselow of Minneapolis Radiation Oncology, a politically active practice that has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to support both parties over the years.
Employees of New Horizon Academy donated $36,100 after Daudt visited one of the private preschools in St. Paul last year to promote early-learning scholarships.
More than three dozen donors to the House DFL gave more than $2,500.
The major public worker union AFSCME gave $92,000; the teachers union $50,000, the Haselows $24,500, and a public employee supervisors union called MAPE gave $75,000.
The DFL Party raised another $1.6 million, including $195,000 from Messinger. The Republican Party raised about $775,000 in donations.
Although Senate Republicans say that the majority is within reach, the Senate DFL swamped them in fundraising last year.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, showed his prowess raising big sums from labor, lobbyists and a few wealthy individuals.
At least 43 donors to the Senate DFL gave more than $2,500. Major donors included AFSCME, which gave $90,000; the Haselows donated $70,000; a labor union gave $65,000; MAPE gave $50,000; the teachers union also gave $50,000, and Vance Opperman, a major political donor and Twin Cities business figure, donated $125,000.
Senate Republicans raised $479,000 and have $426,000 on hand as they try to win back the majority they lost in 2012. The biggest donors included Hubbard, who gave $75,000; Ulrich, who gave $25,000, and Kwik Trip CEO Don Zietlow, who gave $20,000.
Several well-known outside political groups already have begun stockpiling cash for the fall.
WIN Minnesota, a major DFL force, raised about $275,000, including $100,000 from Opperman.
The political arm of Education Minnesota, the teachers union, raised $1.2 million, though it spent more than $800,000 paying down debt.
Although individual candidates are more constrained by election law in what they can raise, endangered incumbents and their challengers are already raising money.
Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, has raised $42,000, while his 2014 opponent, former Rep. Zach Dorholt, DFL-St. Cloud, has raised more than $18,000.
Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, and the three-term DFLer he unseated in 2014, Andrew Falk, both took in about $20,000 last year. Miller spent $7,751 on his campaign, while his challenger spent a quarter of that, mainly on repaying loans from his last campaign.