Candidates for federal office were required to file their year-end campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission by midnight last Friday, and with control of the Senate up for grabs, we were eagerly awaiting the numbers as they trickled in. Here's who won, and lost, the fourth quarter of 2013.
Michelle Nunn: The Democratic Party's lone hope in Georgia is turning into a financial juggernaut. She raised $1.6 million in the final three months of 2013 after collecting $1.7 million the three months previous--hauls about which most incumbents would boast. The impressive totals are a testament to Nunn's strength as she runs essentially unopposed in the Peach State's Democratic primary. The contrast with her Republican opponents couldn't be more stark: The top five GOP contenders each failed to clear a million dollars in their own fourth-quarter fundraising. Georgia remains a tough state for Democrats, but Nunn is quietly putting the party in the best possible position to compete in the fall.
Terri Lynn Land: The Michigan Republican cemented her standing as the 2014 field's most surprisingly strong candidate with yet another impressive fundraising quarter. The former secretary of state reported a $1.7 million fourth quarter, on top of the $2 million she had already pocketed. Yes, almost half of that came from her own bank account (including $600,000 in the last quarter). But she's still raised $2 million on her own, an accomplishment for a candidate lightly regarded by the Michigan GOP establishment when she entered the race in the summer. Her opponent, Democratic Rep. Gary Peters, raised a respectable $1 million himself, but the financial advantage many predicted he'd have against Land now looks unlikely to materialize.
Dan Sullivan: Sullivan's $1.25-million fourth-quarter haul demonstrates he's the front-runner in Alaska's GOP primary (for more on that, see the losers section). But Alaska's former attorney general also out-raised the incumbent Democratic senator, Mark Begich, who collected $850,000 in 2013's final months. When a challenger tops the incumbent, it's usually a strong indication of the candidacy's viability. It's especially important in the Alaska Senate race, where Democrats are counting on a damaging primary to slow down the eventual GOP nominee before he reaches the general election. Sullivan's fundraising prowess might change that calculation.
Kay Hagan: Who knew North Carolina's junior senator was such a fundraising titan? The Democratic lawmaker raised $2 million in the fourth quarter, one of the highest totals of any 2014 candidate. At the beginning of the year, she had $6.8 million on hand. The Republican considered her gravest threat, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, managed just $700,000. Hagan's biggest problem for now isn't her GOP opponents--it's the nonprofit outside group Americans for Prosperity, which has dumped nearly $7 million into the Tar Heel State already.
Mitch McConnell/Alison Lundergan Grimes: We saved the best for last. The Kentucky duo has raised an enormous amount combined--no surprise for the race expected to be the most expensive in the country. McConnell reported raising $2.22 million in the last months of 2013 and has an astounding $10.9 million on hand. Grimes, meanwhile, reported a $2.1 million fourth-quarter haul, meaning she raised more than $5 million total for the year. The Democrat still faces a huge cash disparity against the Senate minority leader, but she's holding her own so far. And while she has a free run to the Democratic nomination, McConnell still faces GOP foe Matt Bevin in a primary. The Louisville-area businessman is a hard candidate to figure out, and he might yet prove to be little more than a bump in the road. But he reported raising $900,000 in the fourth quarter, a decent sum for a candidate taking on the Republican establishment.
Mead Treadwell: Alaska's lieutenant governor had a weak quarter--his second in a row--bringing in just $228,000. Treadwell and Sullivan are the two establishment candidates in the GOP race (2010 nominee Joe Miller is also running), and it will be difficult for Treadwell to compete for support in the primary if he's at such a severe financial disadvantage.
Colorado state Rep. Amy Stephens: Stephens has gotten some buzz as a Republican who could mount a real challenge to Democratic Sen. Mark Udall if she could win the GOP primary--no easy task, given that she sponsored the legislation creating a state health care exchange. But her fourth-quarter totals (her first in the race) were far from impressive: She raised just $51,000, a paltry sum particularly considering Udall's $4.7 million war chest. She'll have to do much better than that to get past 2010 GOP nominee Ken Buck in the primary, let alone take on Udall.
Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas: While Pryor brought in a respectable $1.1 million during the last three months of the year, GOP Rep. Tom Cotton edged him with a $1.2 million haul. Pryor still has substantially more money in the bank, but it's never a good sign when a sitting senator is outraised by a challenger--and that has now happened to Pryor, widely considered the most endangered senator up for reelection, two quarters in a row.
The Iowa GOP field: Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley had another solid fundraising quarter, bringing in about $1 million and ending the year with $2.6 million in the bank. But the candidates for the GOP nomination continued to struggle. Businessman Mark Jacobs easily led the field, and he brought in only about $400,000, to which he added some of his own money. State Sen. Joni Erst, who is well liked by establishment Republicans, took in just over $200,000. Both ended the year with less than $300,000 in the bank. Other GOP candidates lagged behind. As the Republicans prepare to duke it out and try to avoid a convention, they aren't looking well-positioned financially to square off with Braley, who has a clear shot to the nomination.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee: The NRSC was outraised by the DSCC substantially over the course of 2013, with the Democratic committee bringing in $16 million more than its counterpart. Additionally, the NRSC raised less as a committee than it did two years ago. Still, the two committees were in a fundraising dead heat in December, and the national outlook looks a lot more favorable for Republicans that it did on Oct. 15, the previous FEC deadline.
This article appears in the February 4, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.
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