How other Republicans did
GOP candidate Kurt Zellers, a Republican House member from Maple Grove and a former House speaker, was the second-best fundraiser, taking in $91,652. His spending considerably outstripped his contributions. He burned through nearly a third of his cash cushion and now has less than $80,000 on hand.
“Obviously with fundraising you’re never satisfied, and that’s the nature of the business — there are never enough donors and never enough money,” Zellers, a six-term legislator who has been on the Minnesota political scene for nearly 20 years. “But we’re competitive with the rest of the field and notoriously, January, February and March are just tough, tough months to raise money.”
Dave Thompson, a state senator from Lakeville, came in third among Dayton’s Republican challengers with $67,316 in contributions. He has $37,695 in cash on hand. Thompson said he is focused on winning over GOP activists and acknowledges that he lacks a solid list of GOP donors.
“I have stated from the day that I got into this campaign that I would be building a grass-roots campaign, win over delegates, win over the general public, and that the money would follow,” Thompson said. “I believe that ultimately, people will support the candidates that they believe have the right message.”
Marty Seifert, a former GOP House minority leader from Marshall, ended March raising $64,000 for the year, leaving him with $139,082 in the bank. Seifert has hired a professional fundraiser who worked for former Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
“You can raise a billion dollars, but if you blow it all you have nothing to show for it,” Seifert said. “The key number is with being strategic and frugal.”
Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner, raised only $32,000. Johnson said that he spent the past three months focused solely on delegate outreach and that he will continue to do so in the weeks running up to the state party convention. About half the money he raised, he said, was in one day.
“I do expect that money will loosen up considerably after the endorsement,” he said.
Dayton dipped into his personal fortune to finance a good share of his first gubernatorial run and is still owed about $3.8 million, money he may never get back. Dayton did not say whether he would put his own money into the campaign again.
“I haven’t put any in so far, and I haven’t made a final decision one way or the other,” he said Tuesday.
Dayton is still weighing whether to qualify for a public subsidy, which he can do if he contributes less than $20,000 of his own money.
“The way I see it, it’s a couple of weeks until the campaign finance board comes out with their estimate of how much money candidates will receive this year. That’s a factor,” he said. “It’s something we’re considering but haven’t decided yet.”
GOP dealing with debt
The report also showed that the Republican Party of Minnesota remains a long way from digging out of debt brought on by runaway spending leading up to the 2010 elections. Former party chairman Tony Sutton resigned after party officials discovered mountains of previously unreported debt. At one point, the party was nearly evicted from its headquarters near the Capitol and eventually wound up decamping for cheaper quarters in Minneapolis.
The Republican Party raised $214,491 in the first three months of the year but spent nearly three times that — more than $596,000. Coming into a make-or-break election cycle, it has $26,689 in the bank and debt of more than $547,000.
GOP chairman Keith Downey did not return a call to his cellphone.
The state DFL raised $685,449 in the first quarter and has $211,589 cash on hand. It has debt of about $24,000.