Millions are pumping through Minnesota campaign stream

Published 10:01 am Wednesday, April 16, 2014

ST. PAUL — Millions of campaign dollars already are coursing through the Minnesota campaign system, which should leave no shortage of biting commercials on television and brochures in mailboxes attempting to sway voters.

Candidates, political parties and independent groups gave a rundown Tuesday of their fundraising and spending for the first few months of the year. The reports were filed with campaign regulators.

Incumbency again proved its advantage, as candidates already in office largely came away in the best financial shape.

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Gov. Mark Dayton has substantially more money in reserve than six GOP
challengers combined, but some of those rivals kept up with the Democrat in fundraising from January through March.

Here are some takeaways:



Gov. Dayton, Democrat: Raised about $189,000. Had $733,000 in reserve as of April 1.

Investor Scott Honour, Republican: Raised $186,000 from donors and loaned his campaign another $50,000. About $64,000 banked.

State Rep. Kurt Zellers, Republican: Raised $71,000 and loaned his campaign another $20,000. Nearly $80,000 left after expenses.

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, Republican: Raised $32,000. Had $142,000 saved.

Former State Rep. Marty Seifert, Republican: Raised $64,000. Kept $139,000 in reserve.

State Sen. Dave Thompson, Republican: Raised about $67,000. Had $38,000 stored.

Teacher Rob Farnsworth, Republican: Raised $3,335. Had $315 to spend.



Most of state’s eight congressional contests will be runaways due to the voter composition of the districts.

But spirited contests are expected in two districts covering the northern portion of Minnesota.

In the northeastern 8th Congressional District, Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan scooped up about $266,000 from January to March. That left him with $478,000 leftover. Republican challenger Stewart Mills said he raised $203,000 in the same span and had $356,000 in the bank.

Next door in the 7th Congressional District, veteran Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson has more than $523,000 at the ready after a strong fundraising push. His GOP challenger, state Sen. Torrey Westrom, had yet to make his figures public. They only had to be postmarked by Tuesday.


U.S. Senate

Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Mike McFadden has nearly $2 million in reserve as the campaigns start to heat up.

McFadden’s campaign released totals Tuesday for the first three months of 2014. The businessman and first-time candidate raised more than $600,000 during that time, leaving him with $1.8 million cash on hand.

By comparison, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken has nearly $6 million in reserve for his re-election bid. Last Friday the first-term Democrat reported raising $2.72 million during the first three months of 2014, leaving him with $5.9 million in cash on hand as of April 1.

Republicans have yet to settle on a nominee and might not until an August primary. Besides McFadden, leading contenders for the GOP nomination include St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg and state Sen. Julianne Ortman.


Minnesota House

The seesaw struggle for control of the Minnesota House will be expensive, with Republicans hopeful they can pull the chamber back from Democrats after two years.

Individual legislative candidates weren’t required to report their finances, but the campaign arms of the House Democratic and Republican caucuses were.

Democrats said they had just shy of $1.1 million left to spend after raising almost $600,000 in the last three months. Republicans had $618,000 stored up after raising about $218,000.

Fundraising naturally drops when the Legislature is in action because state candidates and legislative caucuses are barred from taking money from lobbyists and political funds the months while lawmakers are in session.

The state Senate isn’t on the ballot again until 2016.



Many independent groups, which can raise unlimited sums, are in stronger shape than candidates and their respective parties. Those groups will be the driving force behind plenty of ads that air. Depending on how they’re structured, some of their financial information doesn’t have to be disclosed.

Candidates and parties will give another peek at their checkbooks this summer as the filing periods become more regular and the fields get narrowed.