U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan on Wednesday reported the biggest fundraising quarter for a Minnesota congressional candidate since Rep. Michele Bachmann announced her retirement last spring. His opponent, Stewart Mills, has kept the overall money race tight heading into the last three weeks of the campaign, partially through self-funding.
That race is the hottest of the year in Minnesota, and it showed in the fundraising reports due to the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday.
MinnPost’s campaign finance dashboard has been updated with the newest numbers from Minnesota’s congressional candidates.
Even as campaigns were reporting their July-to-September fundraising totals, they were doing another round of email asks for the last major pre-election fundraising deadline on Wednesday night. Those numbers will be released next week, so be sure to come back next week for one last look at the dashboard before Nov. 4’s elections.
Here are a few things that stuck out from this quarter’s reports (all numbers below cover the July 1 to September 30 period):
Big money in the 8th
After a couple of quarters earlier this cycle where Mills outraised Nolan, the incumbent turned it on between July and September, raising $647,000 and reporting the best three-month fundraising tally of any Minnesotan running for re-election to the U.S. House. As of Oct. 1, he had about $526,000 in the bank.
He’s ratcheted up the spending, too. Nolan’s expenditures totaled $700,000 last quarter, and his campaign said it went toward “the most robust grassroots field operation the 8th district has ever seen,” a spokeswoman said.
Mills, meanwhile, had $255,000 in cash after raising more than $381,000 from donors in the third quarter. Mills lent his campaign more than $82,000 in personal funds, bringing his total contribution to his campaign to an even $250,000 this cycle. He spent more than $737,000.
A third party candidate, Green Partier Ray Sandman, did not file a fundraising report with the Federal Election Commision.
Of course, campaign fundraising totals don’t tell the whole story about the state of the 8th District race. Outside groups have spent more than $6.7 million there so far, third most among U.S. House races nationally. In 2012, incumbent Rep. Chip Cravaack raised twice as much as Nolan did, but he still lost by 9 points. A lot of factors played into his loss, and the $4.5 million in outside money spent against him is certainly one of them.
7th District candidates battle for cash
That dynamic is in play in the 7th District race between Rep. Collin Peterson and Republican state Sen. Torrey Westrom as well.
Peterson has $762,000 on hand to fend off Westrom, the third largest bankroll among Minnesota incumbents. Westrom brought in $284,000, third most among congressional challengers, and has just under $400,000 in the bank. Westrom made his first ad buy just last week; Peterson has yet to buy any ad time in the Minneapolis market, according to public filings. But outside groups have filled the vacuum, to the tune of $4.6 million as of Wednesday.
Franken doubles up McFadden
Sen. Al Franken raised $4.2 million for the quarter and had $2.7 million on hand. His Republican challenger, Mike McFadden, raised nearly $2 million and has $1 million on hand. Both had their best fundraising quarters of the cycle, and both ramped up their spending, as well: Franken spent $6.4 million, and McFadden, nearly $3 million.
Sticking with the outside spending theme, the Minnesota Senate race has crossed the $1 million threshold for the cycle, according to the FEC. That’s a far smaller sum than either of Minnesota’s hottest congressional races, and it pales in comparison to other Senate races: Iowa, for example, has seen more than $40.5 million in outside cash.
That’s not to say Minnesota’s Senate race will be shut out from further outside money. Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin predicted Wednesday that national groups could move into the state in the late days of the campaign, and a super PAC put $340,000 behind mobile ads against Franken just this week.
Devin Henry can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry