Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty raised more than $1 million in less than a month as a candidate for governor, dwarfing his Republican rivals and showing the formidable fundraising prowess that allowed him to reshuffle the GOP race in just a few weeks.
Pawlenty was not the only candidate to benefit from the largesse of donors, according to state campaign finance reports released Tuesday. U.S. Rep. Tim Walz continued to lead in the money chase on the DFL side, raising $528,000 since Jan. 1 for a total of $1.65 million from donors since he joined the race last year.
The big sums reflect a recognition of the importance of the 2018 governor’s race, which will have Minnesotans deciding between full Republican control of state government and continued DFL leadership in the governor’s office. The GOP and DFL alike are nervously looking to the 2020 census, after which new legislative and congressional district lines will be drawn — driving the state’s politics for the next decade.
“We’ve received extraordinary support for our commitment to find a better way forward for middle income Minnesotans who are getting squeezed,” Pawlenty said in a statement.
The former governor, who served from 2003 to 2011, says he hasn’t decided whether to pursue the GOP endorsement at the state party convention in early June. But his fundraising show of strength and name recognition give him the option of skipping it and taking his case straight to Republican voters in the Aug. 14 primary election.
In their effort to hold a majority in the Minnesota House, Republicans raised $465,000 in the first quarter, while the House DFL raised $258,000. But the state DFL Party continued to outpace its GOP counterpart, having already raised more than $1.5 million for its federal and state accounts. The Republican Party of Minnesota is still tallying contributions to its federal account but reported about $49,000 in contributions to its state account during the first three months of 2018.
Corporate- and labor-backed political groups apart from the two parties are already amassing piles of money for what is expected to be an expensive effort to help their political allies and favored causes. Education Minnesota, the teachers union; the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, the laborers union; and Dayton’s ex-wife Alida Messinger, have all given at least $250,000 to DFL-aligned groups.
But Pawlenty’s money haul was the most striking. After two terms as governor, a run for the presidency and five years as CEO of a Wall Street trade association, Pawlenty has the kind of Rolodex that can turn quick cash.
His campaign report’s alphabetical list of donors begins with Amara Abood of Wayzata and continues with a string of Andersons and into the letter “B” before a donation of less than the maximum allowed $4,000 can be found.
Pawlenty tapped more than 200 donors to give $4,000, the maximum allowed by law.
In addition to addresses in the metro suburbs, 19 Naples, Fla., addresses show up on the donor list. Pawlenty held a fundraiser there before even officially announcing his campaign, drawing from the large community of wealthy Minnesotans who have settled there.
With a significantly earlier start than Pawlenty, Walz has raised the most of any candidate for governor so far. But he has already spent a little more than $1 million of his $1.65 million raised, leaving Pawlenty at least for now with more money in the bank — just over $972,000 — than any other candidate. Walz is second with $628,000.
Jeff Johnson, who had been the GOP front-runner until Pawlenty got in the race, announced he raised $105,000 in the first quarter of the year, putting him at a significant money disadvantage should he wind up in a primary with Pawlenty. Johnson, who was the Republican candidate for governor in 2014 but lost to Gov. Mark Dayton, reported $210,000 in cash and boasted a total of 2,400 donors since he launched his campaign last year.
Johnson said the Pawlenty figure is irrelevant to the race: “We all knew that [Pawlenty] had the big donor class on his side, but I’m happy we’ve connected with a huge and passionate small-dollar donor base of Minnesotans,” he said. “Elections are won by connecting with voters, not just large donors.”
In her first full quarter of fundraising, Woodbury’s GOP Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens raised $51,000 in her bid for governor.
State Auditor Rebecca Otto, who came in second in the DFL straw poll, reported raising about $170,000 with about $149,000 remaining in her campaign account. DFL Rep. Erin Murphy showed receipts of $121,000 in the first quarter and had $72,724 in cash.
Mankato businessman Glen Taylor, who owns the Star Tribune and the Timberwolves and Lynx, donated the maximum $4,000 to Pawlenty in March, as did his wife, Rebecca Taylor.