The five biggest congressional fundraisers and what it tells us about the midterms

Last week, congressional candidates and incumbent lawmakers released their fundraising numbers to the Federal Election Commission, which gives insight into how campaigns are doing ahead of the impending November elections.

The stakes for posting large fundraising numbers are incredibly high because they can determine whether a candidate is viable. Republicans only need to win eight seats in the House to win back the Speaker’s gavel, and only need to flip one seat in the Senate, which means Democrats need to raise a large amount of money as the wind is in their face, as Senator Lindsey Graham Told The Independent last year after Republicans won Virginia’s governorship. Republicans are also expected to pour in money from outside interest groups to get back the Senate.

At the same time, the proliferation of small donors means that oftentimes, voters will give money to candidates they dislike who are not likely to win a campaign.

Here’s The Independent’s breakdown of the biggest fundraisers this last cycle, what their fundraising hauls mean – and what they don’t mean.

Mark Kelly is still an astronomical fundraiser. He’ll need every penny.

In 2020, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly was one of the few major cash fundraisers who turned the money into an actual victory when he beat Senator Martha McSally and actually outpaced President Joe Biden’s performance in the state. But while Senate Democrats might secretly wish that his fellow Arizonan Kyrsten Sinema were on the chopping block right now, Mr Kelly’s victory was for a special election to finish out the duration of the late Senator John McCain’s term. This means he knew he would have to run again in two years, when electoral conditions would not be as beneficial to him.

It turns out the former astronaut’s fundraising is still astronomical. Between January and March, he raised $11.35m and has a massive $23.3m war chest of cash on hand. Mr Kelly is also running in a state where Mr Biden’s approval rating is 40 per cent.

Mr Kelly caught a break when outgoing Republican Governor Doug Ducey said he wouldn’t run for Senate and former president Donald Trump slammed attorney general Mark Brnovich, who is running for the GOP nomination for Senate, for not sufficiently promoting his lies about the stolen election on Monday. Polling so far is scant, but a survey from the Morning Consult at the end of January found that only 46 per cent of voters approve of Mr Kelly’s job performance while his disapproval of him jumped nine points since taking office.

Will Sen Warnock’s fundraising juggernaut run defense against Herschel Walker?

Behind Mr Kelly, Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock is perhaps the most endangered Democratic incumbent. The pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King once preached, pulled off a miracle when he made it to the runoffs and beat incumbent Senator Kelly Loeffler on 5 January 2021. But unlike Senator Jon Ossoff, who won a full Senate term in the same election cycle, the reverend won a race to finish out the duration of a term after Senator Johnny Isakson left office for health reasons.

Mr Warnock raised an astonishing $13.57m between January and March, a sign that Democrats know he will face a tough race. During that time, Mr Warnock made passing a new version of the Voting Rights Act his central policy before efforts died in mid-January. He also has $25.6m in cash on hand.

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That warchest will need to be put to good use against former University of Georgia running back Herschel Walker, a Heisman trophy winner and arguably one of the greatest college football players of all time. Mr Trump encouraged Mr Walker to run for the Senate and endorsed him shortly after he announced he would enter the race.

The former Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys running back raised $5.2 million this last quarter and he has $7.4 million in cash on hand. A poll this month from The Hill and Emerson College found that Mr Walker is running four points ahead of the pastor. Mr Walker has faced multiple allegations of violence against women, including threats and allegedly choking his ex-wife Cindy Grossman. An ex-girlfriend said in a police report that he threatened to kill her and take his own life from her in 2012.

Mr Walker acknowledged his past abuse, said he is “accountable” for his actions and attributed it to his mental health issues, though he told Axios that he’s never broken the law.

Liz Cheney rakes in campaign cash in the fight for her political life

As the vice chairwoman of the House’s select committee investigating the January 6 riot at the US Capitol, no Republican up for reelection criticizes Mr Trump more than Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney. The House Republican caucus booted her from her leadership post from her as chairwoman of the conference and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has endorsed her from her opponent from her Harriet Hageman, as has Mr Trump.

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In response, Ms Cheney has raised gobs of cash. Last quarter, she raked in $2.9m and has $6.8m in cash on hand, an unthinkable number for a member not in leadership. She also raised $89,745 in money from political action committees. That is more than twice the amount her opponent Ms Hageman raised, which was $1.3m. Ms Cheney, the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, still faces major headwinds given that much of her party’s electoral apparatus has focused its energy against her. But she will have plenty of money come the primary in August.

Black women Senate candidates post high numbers in tough races

Kamala Harris’ ascension to the vice presidency left the Senate with no Black women. But Democrats have two Black women candidates running in 2022. In Florida, Representative Val Demings, a former chief of Orlando Police who was an impeachment manager during Mr Trump’s first trial in 2020, raised almost $10.1m in her race against Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who raised $5.8m.

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Similarly, former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court Cheri Beasley raised $3.6m in the race to replace retiring Republican Senator Richard Burr. That’s more than former Governor Pat McCrory raised $1.1m, and the $968,360.18 that Mr Trump’s preferred candidate, Representative Ted Budd, raised.

But Mr Trump won both states and Mr Biden has low approval ratings in both the Sunshine and the Tar Heel state. Mr Rubio outran Mr Trump when he won reelection in 2016 and the state now has more registered Republicans than Democrats. Similarly, despite having a Democratic governor, North Carolina still tilts red during midterm years.

Democratic donors set money on fire to beat Marjorie Taylor Greene

Marjorie Taylor Greene speaking at a Trump rally last month

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Few people enrage Democrats – and some Republicans – as much as Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. Last fundraising quarter, she actually spent more money than she raised, a likely product of her being permanently banned from Twitter.

The QAnon-promoting, race-bait congresswoman who says that Democrats support paedophiles has motivated Democrats to open their wallets. His opponent Marcus Flowers raised $2.4m this last quarter. He also has an astonishing $1.9m in cash on hand.

But that doesn’t mean he is a viable candidate. Ms Greene’s district still voted overwhelmingly for Mr Trump despite the fact the Peach state voted for Mr Biden. All the money in the world likely can’t overcome that.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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