Southern Democrats Raising Big Bucks

Despite a tough political environment, the party’s most vulnerable candidates are bringing in millions.

Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes speaks with reporters about her decision to challenge U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell during a press conference in Frankfort, Ky., on Monday, July 1, 2013. Grimes criticized McConnell as an obstructionist in Washington.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
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Sarah Mimms
Oct. 15, 2013, 2:21 p.m.

As third quarter fun­drais­ing re­ports roll in, Demo­crats are hear­ing good news from an un­likely place — the South.

In nearly every com­pet­it­ive Sen­ate con­test, south­ern Demo­crats out­raised their Re­pub­lic­an coun­ter­parts this quarter, which ran from Ju­ly 1 to Septem­ber 30. The South will be home to some of the party’s most dif­fi­cult races next year, in­clud­ing three vul­ner­able Demo­crat­ic-held seats they’re try­ing to hang onto — in Louisi­ana, Arkan­sas and North Car­o­lina — and two po­ten­tial, if dif­fi­cult, pickup op­por­tun­it­ies in Ken­tucky and Geor­gia.

Two of the party’s most vul­ner­able in­cum­bents, Louisi­ana Sen. Mary Landrieu and North Car­o­lina Sen. Kay Hagan both out­raised their top Re­pub­lic­an chal­lengers by more than a two-to-one mar­gin. Landrieu raised $1.35 mil­lion in the third quarter, while Rep. Bill Cas­sidy brought in around $700,000, ac­cord­ing to their re­spect­ive cam­paigns. Hagan, mean­while, raised nearly $1.9 mil­lion, while North Car­o­lina House Speak­er Thom Tillis, the cur­rent fron­trun­ner for the Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­a­tion, brought in about $700,000 as well.

In Ken­tucky, Demo­crat­ic Sec­ret­ary of State Al­is­on Lun­der­gan Grimes brought in an im­press­ive $2.5 mil­lion in her first quarter as a Sen­ate can­did­ate, out­rais­ing Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell — who touted his “strongest quarter to date” in a re­lease — by about $230,000. Geor­gia’s Michelle Nunn, an­oth­er first-time Sen­ate can­did­ate, re­por­ted rais­ing $1.7 mil­lion — more than double what her top Re­pub­lic­an rivals raised. GOP Rep. Jack King­ston and Geor­gia busi­ness­man Dav­id Per­due each raised about $800,000, while former Sec­ret­ary of State Kar­en Han­del and Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gin­grey re­por­ted rais­ing about $300,000.

Both first-time Demo­crats still lag be­hind in cash on hand, however. Mc­Con­nell has about $10 mil­lion in the bank to Grimes’ $2 mil­lion. Both Gin­grey and King­ston are reach­ing the $3 mil­lion mark, while Nunn hasn’t re­leased a cash on hand fig­ure.

To be sure, there are two ex­cep­tions to the Demo­crats’ fun­drais­ing wins this quarter. First, in Arkan­sas, where Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Tom Cot­ton out­raised in­cum­bent Sen. Mark Pry­or by a less than $6,000 — a vir­tu­al tie give each can­did­ate’s mil­lion dol­lar hauls this quarter. And in West Vir­gin­ia, Demo­crat­ic Sec­ret­ary of State Nat­alie Ten­nant raised just $150,000, ac­cord­ing to ra­dio host Hoppy Ker­che­val, while Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Shel­ley Moore Capito brought in $778,000, but Ten­nant’s total rep­res­ents just two weeks of fun­drais­ing.

COR­REC­TION: An earli­er ver­sion of this story mis­stated the mar­gin by which Grimes out­raised Mc­Con­nell.

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