Democratic money dwarfs Republican spending

Democratic money dwarfs Republican spending


A handful of Democratic legislative candidates bolstered by out-of-state funders broke Arizona campaign finance records with just two weeks to go before the election.

Democrats in swing districts pulled in six figures while their incumbent Republican opponents struggled to keep up, the third-quarter campaign finance reports filed late last week showed. Independent spending for Democrats also far outweighed the outside spending meant to help Republican incumbents.

Wendy Rogers
Wendy Rogers

“These numbers clearly show that people are ready for new leadership,” Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee Executive Director Charlie Fisher said in a news release. “The grassroots work and energy that we’ve invested in these districts [are] paying off.”

At the federal level, Democrats Mark Kelly and Hiral Tipirneni – running for the U.S. Senate and Arizona’s 6th Congressional District, respectively – also crushed their own records.

Kelly, who continued to fundraise on a presidential-type level, raked in $38.7 million over the past three months. To put that in perspective, then-candidate Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally raised a combined $44.5 million during the entire 2018 election cycle.

McSally raised roughly $23 million this quarter – a record for her.

Tipirneni hauled in the most ever in a quarter for an Arizona congressional candidate. She took in $2.5 million – more than her Republican incumbent opponent, U.S. Rep. David Schweikert, raised the entire campaign.

Outside spending pours in

Kate Brophy McGee
Kate Brophy McGee

Before this year, Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, raised the highest amount ever raised by a legislative candidate at $554,000 in 2018, when she successfully defended her seat.

This year, three candidates, including Brophy McGee, already surpassed that record, while several more candidates appear poised to do so by Election Day.

The most successful legislative fundraiser, though, is a Republican – Wendy Rogers, who is running for a state Senate seat in northern Arizona’s Legislative District 6 after several unsuccessful attempts to win a seat in Congress and in the Arizona Legislature. Rogers put to use her massive national fundraising network to raise $900,000 for her campaign.

In the most recent quarter, Rogers picked up contributions from supporters in 48 of the 50 states – she’s only missing Rhode Island and Vermont. Rogers is spending heavily, ending the quarter with just $187,000 left in the bank, which is still a sizable amount that dwarfs the war chest of other legislative candidates.

Rogers’ Democratic opponent Felicia French, who also built a national profile on the left with her close House race in 2018, collected close to $300,000 last quarter and more than $512,000 through her whole campaign. She still has about $233,000 left to spend.

Republican PACs appear most concerned about Rogers’ changes. They’ve put in more than $406,000 to help her and spent an additional $437,000 to attack French.

JD Mesnard

Democratic outside money groups, meanwhile, are spending unheard of amounts to attack incumbent Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler. They so far spent a combined $1.1 million to attack Mesnard and boost his Democratic challenger Ajlan “A.J.”  Kurdoglu. Republicans, on the other hand, spent about $728,000 to do the reverse.

Mesnard and Kurdoglu both started fundraising in earnest after their respective uncontested primaries – Kurdoglu collected about $275,000 in the third quarter while Mesnard took in $150,00.

Much of Kurdoglu’s cash comes from out-of-state funders – about 375 individuals who live in California gave his campaign a combined $76,000. Meanwhile, about 260 Arizonans chipped in an additional $154,000.

“Never before has it felt as palpable that out of state liberals, particularly from California, are blatantly trying to buy Arizona,” Mesnard tweeted.

AJ Korduglu
AJ Korduglu

The rematch of 2018’s closest race hasn’t drawn nearly as much outside money as other competitive districts, but both Brophy McGee and Democratic opponent Christine Marsh remain strong fundraisers.

Brophy McGee brought in $154,000 to Marsh’s $259,000 in the third quarter. They both ended the quarter with about $280,000 left to spend.

Democrats hold money edge in House races

On the House side, where Democrats need only two wins to flip the Republican-led chamber, candidates, including Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans and retired West Valley high school teacher Judy Schwiebert, walloped their opponents.

In Legislative District 6, Evans brought in more than $330,000 in the last quarter alone for a total of $556,000 for the election cycle so far. That’s more than twice the combined sum from her opponents, Republican incumbent Walt Blackman, former Republican lawmaker Brenda Barton and independent Coconino County Supervisor Art Babbott.

In Legislative District 20, Schwiebert outraised and outspent incumbent Reps. Anthony Kern and Shawnna Bolick. The Democrat challenger brought in close to $272,000 and spent $148,000 in the third quarter. Kern and Bolick, meanwhile, respectively raised $50,000 and $57,000. The two Republicans spent more than they took in.

Christine Marsh
Christine Marsh

Just to the west, in Legislative District 21, Democratic Peoria school board member Kathy Knecht similarly outraised incumbent GOP Rep. Kevin Payne and Republican school board member Beverly Pingerelli.

Knecht brought in $121,000 last quarter and about $244,000 total, with $132,000 left on hand. Payne raised $23,000 in the same period and $71,000 total, while Pingerelli brought in $27,000 in the quarter for a cycle-long haul of $48,000. Pingerelli has just $19,000 left to spend, compared to $47,000 for Payne.

Initiative supporters dwarf critics in fundraising

Proposition 208 – Invest in Education – still trailed 2018’s clean energy initiative but crushed the opposition in raising and spending, according to the Secretary of State’s Office campaign finance database.

Through its political action committee, Prop. 208 raised a staggering $13 million in the latest quarter and spent nearly all of it, with $10 million going to TV advertising. The Arizona Education Association and Stand for Children spearhead the yes campaign’s PAC.

The opposition to Prop. 208 formed two separate groups – Arizonans for Great Schools and a Strong Economy and No on 208 – and both raised roughly $4 million combined.

Felicia French
Felicia French

The anti campaign reported spending only $4 million. Stacy Pearson, Prop. 208’s campaign spokeswoman, claimed the anti-Prop. 208 campaign is outspending the yes campaign based on media buy reports she saw. That spending is not yet reflected in campaign finance reports.

This would match up with what former legislator David Lujan, who speaks for the yes side, said during a Prop. 208 debate with Jaime Molera, who leads the opposition campaign.

“Our opponents have spent more than $18 million trying to defeat this [proposition],” Lujan, director for the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, said. Molera did not dispute the number.

Invest in Ed has about $1.2 million left to spend heading into election crunch time. The combined anti-Prop. 208 groups have roughly $500,000 on hand.