Republican Tim Pawlenty and DFLer Tim Walz have raised the most money so far this year in Minnesota’s wide-open race for governor, while their party-endorsed rivals lag considerably behind.
Campaign finance reports released Friday show Pawlenty, the former governor, and Walz, a congressman from Mankato, were the top two fundraisers in the first five months of 2018. Pawlenty also has the most cash in the bank of any candidate, as they move closer to contested August primaries and the November general election.
Pawlenty had more than $1.3 million in his campaign bank account by the end of May, and he has raised 10 times as much money this year as the GOP’s endorsed candidate, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. Pawlenty raised $1.7 million in the first part of the year, while the Johnson campaign reported $169,000 in fundraising and $186,000 in the bank.
Walz, who entered the race last year, has raised the largest total sum over the length of his campaign at just over $2 million, although Pawlenty joined the race much later than Walz. Between January and May, Walz brought in $888,000, and ended the period with $685,000 on hand.
State Rep. Erin Murphy, who secured the party’s endorsement this month, raised $259,000 and had $86,000 in the bank at the end of May. Murphy’s campaign manager said fundraising had accelerated in June, after the state representative from St. Paul captured the DFL endorsement.
Attorney General Lori Swanson, another prominent DFL contender for governor, is not included in the report because she launched her campaign on June 4, after the end of the filing period.
The race is drawing interest — and major fundraising dollars — from both individual donors and groups concerned about either maintaining DFL control of the governor’s office or shifting it to Republican hands. Republicans have a one-seat majority in the state Senate and a larger majority in the House, although all House seats are up for election this fall.
Pawlenty, who entered the race for governor in early April, did not seek the Republican Party’s endorsement. In a statement, his campaign noted that it raised $1.7 million in less than three months, from more than 3,500 donors.
“Our campaign is well-positioned to take our message to every corner of Minnesota,” Pawlenty said. “The help provided by our supporters, volunteers, and donors in just three months has been simply remarkable.”
Walz’s campaign released a statement that noted it had raised more than $2 million since 2017, and the campaign said it saw an “influx of grassroots donations” immediately after the state DFL convention, which was held the first weekend of June.
“Everywhere we go, we feel the momentum building,” Walz said. “It’s clear: Minnesotans are joining our movement to unite this great state.”
Murphy’s campaign manager, James Haggar, said in a statement that the Murphy campaign has also seen an increase in donations in the weeks after the reporting period and after the DFL endorsing convention.
“Since the convention we have seen a significant uptick in donations from both small and large donors that will make June our largest fundraising month to date, helping us prepare for a competitive primary and general election,” he said.
Johnson’s campaign did not return a message seeking comment.
Swanson, who was running for re-election as attorney general until after the party convention, held her first formal fundraiser last week and was the first gubernatorial candidate to launch a statewide television ad. She can transfer up to $40,000 from her attorney general campaign account, which had about $210,000 in it at the end of March.
Meanwhile, as both parties look to up their numbers in the Legislature, the House DFL caucus reported raising nearly $692,000 so far this year — 77 percent more than it raised during the same period in the last election cycle, in 2016. The caucus had about $725,000 on hand at the end of May.
House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman said the numbers show the party could flip the balance of power in the chamber.
“We have strong momentum to win a DFL majority in the Minnesota House of Representatives,” she said.
The House Republican Campaign Committee raised less than DFLers during the reporting period: $502,000. But the party has a bigger bank account balance, with $866,000 on hand.