Minnesota donors and interest groups opened the taps and let the money flow into state Legislative races this year.

Redistricting, retirements and contested primaries have put a large number of seats in play this year, a fact that’s reflected in the pre-primary campaign finance reports released by the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board on Tuesday.

The reports paint a picture of contested primaries, incumbent versus incumbent showdowns and a dash for cash by both parties eager to control the Legislature come 2013.

Redistricting threw neighboring Reps. Larry Howes, R-Walker, and John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, into competition for the same District 5A seat. So far, their fundraising has been distinctly lopsided.
Howes, a seven-term incumbent and chair of the House Capital Investment Committee, has raised $21,350, spent

$3,330 and has $18,019 on hand as he heads into the general election. By contrast, Persell, an assistant minority leader, has raised $5,468, spent $3,680 and had $3,950 in cash on hand as of mid-July.

Many incumbents have ratcheted up the fundraising to keep hold of their seats. Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, has raised $48,923 to defend her seat. An assistant Senate minority leader, she’s spent almost $18,000 already this year and heads into the general election with $40,398 in cash on hand.

So far, she’s out-raised her Republican opponent, David Gaither, by a margin of two to one. Gaither brought in $23,121, spent $8,643 and has $14,478 in cash on hand.

Sen. Julianne Ortmann, facing a primary challenge from the right in the solidly conservative 47th district, flexed the fundraising muscle that comes with being the chair of the powerful Senate tax committee.

By mid-July, Ortmann had raised a $39,590 and spent $26,526 in the run-up to the primary, leaving her with $18,845 in the bank – more than many other candidates have raised all year. Her GOP challenger, Bruce Schwichtenberg, by contrast, has raised $4,795, spent $1,910 and had $2,974 in cash on hand.

The winner of their primary will face DFL challenger Jim Weygand, who has raised $5,315 and had $2,161 in the bank heading into the general election.

Another incumbent head-to-head matchup pits Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam, against Rep. Carolyn McElfatrick, R-Deer River.

Anzelc has raised $12,070 so far this year, spent $7,603 and has $7,381 on hand. McElfatrick raised $10,612, spent $11,162 and still had $6,532 in the bank by mid-month.

State Rep. Connie Doepke, R-Orono, brought out the fundraising big guns as she mounts a primary challenge to the GOP-endorsed candidate in Senate District 33. The district had long been held by retiring state Sen. Gen Olson, R-Minnetrista.

Doepke has raised $40,746 to date, spent $16,762 and had $22,983 available, heading into the primary against Republican David Osmek.

So far, Osmek has raised $13,683, spent $8,233 and had $10,513 on hand by the end of the reporting period. The primary winner will face DFL challenger Judy Rogosheske, who has raise $9,165, spent $3,187 and had $5,605 in cash on hand.

Freshman Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, is lagging in fundraising behind DFL challenger Robert Cunniff, one of two Democrats trying to unseat the controversial lawmaker. Franson raised eyebrows earlier this year when she released a video comparing public food assistance to feeding wild animals and making them “dependent.”

Franson’s “Patriots for Franson” campaign committe has raised $11,930 so far this year and spent $9,826, leaving her with $4,095 in cash on hand.

Cunniff,  the endorsed DFL candidate in the race, reported that he has raised $14,610, spent $6,814 and had $7,186 in the bank as of mid-July. A campaign finance report for the other Democrat in the primary, Bruce Campbell, is not yet available online.

Cindy Pugh, founder of the Southwest Metro Tea Party, has raised $17,412 for her primary challenge to more moderate incumbent Rep.  Steve Smith, R-Mound. Pugh, recently endorsed by House Speaker Kurt Zellers, has spent $15,298 so far this year and had $7,774 in the bank, heading into August.

Campaign reports for Smith, who is seeking his twelfth term in the House, have not yet been posted online. The winner of the primary will face DFL candidate Denise Bader, who has raised $9,166, spent $6,423 and has $8,133 cash on hand.

First-term Rep. Doug Wardlow, R-Eagan, is neck-in-neck in fundraising with the Democrat challenging him in his suburban swing district. Wardlow has raised $14,503 and spent $6,678 on the campaign so far this year, leaving him with $10,136.

His DFL challenger, Eagan parks and recreation commissioner Laurie Halverson, has raised  $14,831, spent $6,426, with $9,570 left in the bank.

Rep. David Hancock, R-Bemidji, raised less money than his challenger as he works to hold on to his Democratic-leaning district for a second term -- but he’s sitting on a substantial war chest as he heads into the general election season.

DFL challenger Roger Erickson has raised $12,477, spent $8,248 and had an ending cash balance of $3,928. Hancock, meanwhile, raised $5,841, spent $1,812 and has $14,311 in the bank.

The campaign cash is piling high in district 49A, where both candidates for the open seats have built up substantial campaign coffers heading into the general election.

Ron Erhardt, a retired Republican representative who switched parties and is now running for the open seat as a Democrat, has raised $18,535 for his bid, spent $4,656 and is sitting on top of $30,079 in cash on hand.

GOP candidate Bill Glahn has raised $36,487, spent $5,409 and has $31,077 in reserve for the fall campaign season.