Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz raised more than $1 million last year, a record haul for a first-year governor who doesn't face voters for another three years, according to his campaign.
Walz's 2019 report provided the first glimpse into the DFL governor's fundraising performance since taking office in a year marked by sharp divisions between the Republican-led Senate and the Democratic-controlled House.
Minnesota Republicans and Democrats on Friday both reported record fundraising numbers for 2019, a non-election year, with both sides painting their totals as a sign of energized political bases and affirmation of their competing agendas heading into a critical election.
"Minnesotans are happy with the work of the Senate to lower taxes, hold the bureaucracy accountable and provide a check on the far-left agenda of Gov. Tim Walz and House Democrats," said Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, in announcing that his caucus raised a record $1.3 million in 2019 and had $2 million in the bank.
House Democrats reported raising a record $1.6 million last year with $1.2 million still available to spend on the upcoming election, showing that "momentum is on our side," House Speaker Melissa Hortman said in a statement.
All 201 members of the House and Senate are on the ballot this fall with control of government at stake ahead of the next round of legislative redistricting after the 2020 census. Republicans hold a narrow 35-32 majority in the Senate, and Democrats are fighting to maintain control of the state House.
The new fundraising figures also reflect the growing pressure on candidates and local parties to combat the tens of millions that will flood in from outside the state after the 2010 Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door to unlimited campaign spending from corporations, unions and other groups.
Walz has until 2022 until he faces re-election, but roughly $30 million was spent by candidates and outside groups on the governor's race two years ago. After his 2019 cash haul, his campaign said he has $828,000 still in the bank.
Minnesota also has a U.S. Senate seat on the ballot and a handful of competitive congressional races, which already are attracting outside spending. In the suburban Second District, freshman DFL Rep. Angie Craig reported having $1.5 million on hand heading into a competitive 2020 race, where at least five Republicans are vying to challenge her. Craig won her seat in 2018, but Donald Trump narrowly beat Hillary Clinton in the district in 2016, making it a target for Republicans.
Republicans also are eyeing longtime incumbent DFL Rep. Collin Peterson, whose Seventh District went more than 30 percentage points for Trump four years ago. Peterson, who hasn't said whether he is running for re-election, reported raising $175,000 in the last three months of 2019 and has $1 million heading into the 2020 election.
Former Republican state senator and lieutenant governor Michelle Fischbach, who jumped into the race against Peterson in September, has $203,000 heading into 2020, but she raised more than Peterson in the final months of the year, pulling in $264,000.
In the Fifth District, freshman DFL Rep. Ilhan Omar continues to amass major dollars ahead of her first re-election bid this fall, raising more than $436,000 in the final months of the year. But Omar, who has gained a national profile as a top foil to President Donald Trump, also spent nearly $405,000 in the same time period. She has nearly $1.6 million going into 2020, a large war chest in what is generally regarded as a safe DFL district.
Omar's most realistic challenge could come in a Democratic primary, where she faces a handful of new rivals, including Democrat Antone Melton-Meaux, who has sought support among more moderate DFL figures. Melton-Meaux reported that he raised $100,000 in the first 24 hours of joining the race in December. Other challengers include Independence Party candidate Chris Kelley and Republicans Lacy Johnson and Dalia al-Aqidi, a former White House correspondent from Iraq.
Briana Bierschbach 651-925-5042 Twitter: @bbierschbach