Elizabeth Warren does not figure to have a difficult re-election on her hands this November. Every major political forecaster has already chalked it up as a Democratic hold, and nothing about the state’s voters, or her potential Republican challengers, has thus far suggested anything else.
Yet she’s still raking in all the campaign contributions that her supporters want to give her. In the first three months of this year, she raised more than $3 million, according to her campaign, giving her more than $15 million in the bank. That’s with no opponent until the Republicans choose one on September 4th, and many months to keep raising the dough.
You would think she might slow it down a bit. There are plenty of other Democrats defending Senate seats, or challenging Republican incumbents, who might need the money more than Warren.
It certainly doesn’t seem likely that she’ll need to spend anywhere near the mammoth $45 million it took to defeat Scott Brown six years ago.
The three top Republicans running for the chance to oppose her in November each raised just around $300,000 in the same period. Republican insiders expect all three—Geoff Diehl, Jack Kingston, and Beth Lindstrom—to get the required 15% delegate support at this month’s Republican state convention, after which they will spend every penny they raise fighting one another through the September primary.
Kingston is wealthy enough to self-fund for the primary, and is already doing so. Diehl and Lindstrom are raising enough to run state-wide campaigns, but neither is putting away big bucks for an advertising blitz prior to the early September primary, let alone to face Warren after that. They are all likely depending on outside Super PACs to carry much of the burden. But, with expectations so low for defeating Warren, few big-spending Republicans will see that as a wise investment.
So, bottom line: Warren doesn’t really need the big campaign war chest.
But don’t think that she’s unwilling to spread around the wealth that she seems to attract in piles.
Warren has been fundraising directly for other Senate candidates around the country—particularly incumbents trying to fend off Republican challenges, but also some Democrats taking aim at gaining seats for the party.
And, reports coming in for the first quarter suggest that those Democrats are doing just fine filling their war chests at the same time that Warren does.
Claire McCaskill of Missouri raised $3.9 million; Sherrod Brown of Ohio $3.3 million; Bill Nelson of Florida $3.2 million; Jon Tester of Montana $2 million; Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota $1.8 million; Tina Smith of Minnesota $1.8 million; and Joe Donnelly of Indiana $1.6 million.
Plus, over the past three months, Warren’s political action committee—PAC For A Level Playing Field—doled out more than $350,000 to Democratic state parties and national committees. That included $5,000 each to almost every state’s Democratic Party.
That’s a nice piece of largesse, to help Democrats win nationwide. And if you’re among those thinking of what’s next for Warren, those contributions are exactly someone planning to run in upcoming Presidential primaries would want to do. Warren, however, has ruled out a presidential run.
Taking sides in the 7th District
Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley’s challenge to Congressman Michael Capuano puts a lot of Boston-area Democrats in a tough position. Contributing money is a way of going on record not just in support of one, but in opposition of the other.
Pressley, who announced her candidacy in late January, raised more than $350,000 by the end of March—an impressive sum, that suggests she’ll have enough to run a serious campaign through the September 4 primary.
Not as much as the incumbent, however. Capuano came into the year with more than $750,000 in his campaign account. He added another $500,000 in the first three months of this year.
That included roughly $140,000 from special-interest groups, and another $35,000 or so from party committees and other Democratic elected officials. That’s the perks of 20-year incumbency.
Overall, it’s not bad work for a guy who hasn’t really had to flex his fundraising muscles since his unsuccessful 2010 bid for Senate. Capuano hasn’t faced a serious challenge for his U.S. House seat since winning it in 1998. So far, he seems ready to work for it.
His contributors in the first quarter of 2018 included quite a few Boston-area power players. Notably, there were several people in Mayor Marty Walsh’s orbit, such as policy advisor Joyce Linehan, and campaign advisor Paul Trane. Walsh has not endorsed in the race yet, but is thought to be supporting Capuano.
Other familiar names giving to Capuano include John Fish of Suffolk Construction, Chinatown power broker Frank Chin, former state senate president Bob Travaglini, former state house speaker Charles Flaherty, and Massachusetts Competitive Partnership CEO Dan O’Connell.
Pressley’s donor list is also chock full of familiar Bostonians, who were willing to publicly side with the challenger.
Former U.S. Senator Mo Cowan, former Attorney General Martha Coakley, former U.S. Attorney Wayne Budd, Eastern Bank chair Bob Rivers, Emerson College president Lee Pelton, and Cambridge College president Deborah Jackson are among that roster.
Ultimately, though, Pressley will need grassroots energy and support more than big checks from marquee names. Look for whether that starts to show up in the form of small-dollar donations in her next quarterly report.
Money gap widens in 3rd District
Up north of Boston, Dan Koh’s prodigious fundraising continues to separate him from the rest of the Democrats seeking to succeed Niki Tsongas, who is retiring at the end of this term.
In fact, Koh has raised nearly triple what any other candidate has brought in. And the distance is only widening. Koh took in more than $900,000 in the first quarter of 2018, bringing his total to nearly $2.5 million since announcing his candidacy last Fall. It’s allowed Koh to build up staff and a robust field operation, while banking more than enough money for a full-scale ad campaign.
It’s amazing, especially for a 33-year-old first-time candidate—even one with the backing of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh
His contribution lists have read like a Who’s Who of Boston’s movers and shakers, especially heavy with developers and others whose livelihood depends on good relations with Walsh’s City Hall, where Koh was chief of staff.
Joining that roster of donors this quarter were builders Joseph Fallon, Steven Samuels, Adam Weiner, and Kimberly Stamler, as well as Bob Travaglini, Josh Kraft, Josiah Spaulding, Patrick Lyons, and plenty more.
Yet few people in the other camps seem convinced that this abundance of cash makes Koh the favorite, let alone unbeatable.
Koh remains generally unknown to district voters; faces resentment for his Boston backing; and remains a questionable fit for the mostly working-class region.
So, his opponents feel good staying in the chase, as long as they think they can raise enough to run their campaigns.
That could mean that the fight for attention continues to be split among a wide field of interesting but little-known candidates, right through the summer months when voters are distracted by other things. At that point, perhaps all that money will let Koh break through the crowd.