Statehouse Fundraising – Who’s Ahead, Who’s Underperforming

The late July fundraising report for Iowa candidates is often the most important – the next filing deadline isn’t until October 19. Many of the state’s major PACs and donors use these numbers in determining who to send extra funds to help push over the top. There’s not a lot of public data available on these races, so this is one of the few ways someone not directly working on the campaigns or living in that community can get a sense of where things stand.

Obviously, having more money is helpful so that you can better spread your message throughout your district. But for those watching these races closely, it’s also a good indicator or which candidates are running a strong campaign. If you’re doing the most difficult work of raising money, it’s very likely you’re also doing the other tasks of door-knocking, recruiting volunteers and developing your message. With candidates who only raise a few hundred bucks, you wonder what it is they do all day.

I compiled a spreadsheet of all the races that are interesting to me – essentially all of the targeted, swing districts, along with a handful of others I’m personally interested in thrown in. You can download the file here if you want to play around with the numbers yourself. You can also take a look at the reporting website to see exactly what each candidate spent money on and who they raised funds from. Also, here’s the district maps for reference.

One caveat on the money spent columns: don’t automatically assume candidates with high burn rates are doing it wrong. Some of these are covering costs from their primary race, others are instances where they kick big sums of money up to the state party to fund their program.

The Marquee Senate Matchups

Several races expected to be among the biggest in the state have lived up to that promise. Who wins in these Senate and House districts could well determine which party wields control of that chamber.

On the Senate side, Democrats are easily out-raising their opponents in all of the must-hold districts:

SD 34 Raised Spent COH
Rene Gadelha (R) 8490 18958 56318
Liz Mathis (D) 47337 1933 138305

Gadelha surprised Mathis early on by raising more than the popular incumbent in the first report of this year, but Mathis has come back with a vengeance and bested Gadelha in the last two reports. Gadelha brought in a very impressive $58,000 in the January filing, yet her totals keep shrinking as time goes on. Still, she has the highest cash-on-hand of any of the Republican Senate challengers, no small task. Democrats (and, privately, some Republican), however, think Republicans’ hope of defeating the well-liked Mathis in this suburban Linn County district is slipping away.

SD 46 Raised Spent COH
Mark Lofgren (R) 10845 24318 36198
Chris Brase (D) 33880 2935 92581

Another race where an early Republican fundraising advantage has since been eclipsed by the Democrat. Once again, Lofgren had some questionable spending choices. $10,000 went to signs, while another $3,300 went to notepads. $7,500 went to the party, which is normal. This is the seat Republicans have the best chance of flipping to deny Democrats’ their majority in the State Senate. Southeast Iowa could trend toward Trump in places like Muscatine, but at least Brase has a cash advantage to help.

SD 26 Raised Spent COH
Waylon Brown (R) 7510 10474 7258
Mary Jo Wilhelm (D) 29333 1615 58577

Wilhelm was Democrats’ #26 in 2012 – this time she’s not trying to unseat a Republican incumbent for once. That explains part of her lead in the money here. She’s also a particularly hard worker and a top priority for Gronstal. Brown has been touted as a door-knocking machine, so perhaps that’s where he’s spending most of his time. $7,500 isn’t bad for a Senate challenger, but the cash-on-hand is worrisome. Brown also spent a decent amount of money on notepads.

SD 36 Raised Spent COH
Jeff Edler (R) 7325 4543 20175
Steve Sodders (D) 30274 2500 42950

Sodders typically runs a campaign with strong fundraising. Edler has a good amount saved up and should receive plenty of help from the party.

SD 30 Raised Spent COH
Jeff Danielson (D) 57661 9897 157502
Bonnie Sadler (R) 4755 5801 9088

After two close calls, Republicans hoped to finally knock off Danielson in this Cedar Falls district. With this big a disparity in fundraising, it’s looking awfully difficult.

SD 32 Raised Spent COH
Brain Schoenjahn (D) 5940 13326 14529
Craig Johnson (R) 6340 3739 18251

An even money race in this important Northeast district. You might expect Schoenjahn, the incumbent, to have a little more in the bank, but he’ll get plenty of help from the party. He’s one who spends a lot of his time knocking doors.

SD 28 Raised Spent COH
Jan Heikes (D) 5467 3409 16615
Michael Breitbach (R) 8250 1389 11807

This is odd. If Democrats come up short in Brase’s district and lose a seat, they need to capture a Republican-held one. Only Breitbach and Dan Zumbach are real potentials, with Breitbach the much more achievable target. And as of right now, you wouldn’t know the balance of the Iowa Senate rests on this district in Northeast Iowa. Both Heikes and Breitbach’s raised amounts are perfectly fine, but only if you already had a lot in the bank. Breitbach’s cash-on-hand is particularly distressing for a swing district incumbent who will be heavily targeted. Either party has the opportunity to take the advantage in this district; neither seems to be taking it yet.


The Des Moines-Area House Races

Polk County is home to a large number of highly competitive House races. Let’s start here:

HD 43 Raised Spent COH
Chris Hagenow (R) 58025 3387 222913
Jennifer Konfrst (D) 9735 227 40877

Over $40,000 cash-on-hand is a lot for a Democratic challenger. But, man, Hagenow is a good fundraiser. Usually, targeted incumbents raise a lot, but still receive extra funds from the party. Hagenow could run a full program all on his own. This Windsor Heights/Clive/Urbandale district will likely end up as one of the most expensive in the state with some significant TV ad buys in the Des Moines market, something you don’t often see.

HD 38 Raised Spent COH
Heather Matson (D) 9820 1835 54436
Kevin Koester (R) 500 254 13856

Hey, Koester knows he has a tough reelection right? Is he aware he’s on the ballot? Or that his Ankeny-based district might turn against Trump this year and hurt down-ballot Republicans? Matson is one of the Democrats’ best recruits, but there’s still no reason a long-time incumbent like Koester should be behind nearly 5-to-1 in cash-on-hand. This is one of those cases where you wonder if the candidate is doing any other campaigning. Matson’s cash-on-hand appears to be the largest amount of any Democratic challenger (and most Democratic incumbents).

HD 42 Raised Spent COH
Claire Celsi (D) 8305 4717 30870
Peter Cownie (R) 26125 2713 115065

Much like the Hagenow-Konfrst race, you have a member of the Republican House leadership with a large war chest. Celsi will have enough to run a real campaign to take advantage of Clinton gains in this West Des Moines district.

HD 30 Raised Spent COH
Zach Nunn (R) 11240 5589 39733
Joe Riding (D) 700 2364 6749

Democrats can’t be very happy with Riding’s numbers. He’s a former state representative trying to retake his Altoona-based seat – he should have a lot of donor connections to compete with Nunn, who got called up for a 90-day military deployment in the middle of the campaign. Democrats would love to end Nunn’s career now – he’s seen as a rising star in the party and was quickly given a leadership position in the House.


Top House Races Around The State

HD 51 Raised Spent COH
Jane Bloomingdale (R) 5825 7048 4680
Tim Hejhal (D) 5020 1213 6378

Picking up Josh Byrne’s Democratic-leaning northern Iowa district is Democrats’ best opportunity this year. Money race is pretty even and both will need help from the party. Republicans may have too many other priorities to help out Bloomingdale much.

HD 55 Raised Spent COH
Pat Ritter (D) 10035 8523 3799
Michael Bergan (R) 1505 404 3395

Another pick-up opportunity, based in nearby Decorah. Ritter spent most of his money in his primary, but is easily out-raising his opponent. Since this is the seat that Republican Darrel Branhagen is retiring from, you’d think more money would be coming in for Bergan to hold it.

HD 58 Raised Spent COH
Andy McKean (R) 5115 1106 4594
Pete Hird (D) 2890 254 15076

Before Hird dropped out, he had a decent amount of money in the bank for this open, Democratic-leaning district. Jessica Kean is the new Democratic candidate, and got in after the fundraising deadline. You’d think McKean, who is a former Republican state senator, could pull more money together than this. He was likely Republicans’ only hope in holding this seat, but this doesn’t instill much confidence (of course, neither does your candidate dropping out!).

HD 67 Raised Spent COH
Ashley Hinson (R) 4108 5201 30189
Mark Seidl (D) 3895 2080 15425

The Marion and Hiawatha-area districts could have ended up like the Des Moines suburb races, but Republicans have very good candidates and incumbents here. Seidl’s amounts are respectable, but Hinson has proven to be a very aggressive candidate.

HD 68 Raised Spent COH
Molly Donahue (D) 6290 6803 5962
Ken Rizer (R) 4070 5196 38133

Democrats really wanted to knock off Rizer in this winnable district after Dan Lundby lost it in 2014, but Rizer is staying ahead in the money race, though Donahue out-raised him after winning her primary. Rizer’s war chest is not quite to the same level as his Des Moines suburban counterparts like Cownie and Hagenow, however.

HD 72 Raised Spent COH
Nathan Wrage (D) 6437 600 12742
Dean Fisher (R) 4265 450 10015

A very even money battle in this Tama-based district Democrats think they have a good shot of picking up. This race could end up very, very close.

HD 92 Raised Spent COH
Ross Paustian (R) 5915 3180 11958
Ken Krumwiede (D) 3231 1746 11375

A similar situation in this rural Scott County campaign. Another one to expect to go down to the wire.

HD 88 Raised Spent COH
David Kerr (R) 1375 282 4092
Ryan Drew (D) 13890 50 13840

This is interesting. Incumbent Tom Sands dropped out of his reelection race two days after the primary, with Jason Delzell jumping in within hours, but David Kerr winning a nominating convention. Yet Sands continued to raise money, pulling in $9,100 after withdrawing his name from the ballot, including several large donations over a month after. He apparently held a fundraiser at a golf course around June 19 – so maybe they had a major fundraiser planned and didn’t want to cancel their tee time with big donors? Sands kicked $15,100 over to the Eisenhower Club, the Iowa Republican legislative fund, on July 5. He’s still sitting on over $65,000 – it will be interesting to watch where he directs that to. Most of Kerr’s cash-on-hand came from a $3,000 loan.

Meanwhile, Ryan Drew was quick to raise nearly $14,000 after jumping into the campaign in mid-June. Most of his contributions came from labor organizations. Drew is the president of the Southeast Iowa Building Trades.

HD 95 Raised Spent COH
Louis Zumbach (R) 950 7390 5776
Richard Whitehead (D) 2895 1001 14179

This open rural Linn County seat is one Republicans would very much like to hold on to. So far it’s not looking like a very expensive contest. Zumbach spent most of his money on yard signs and a $2,000 partnership with the Linn County Fair. Democrats’ chances here are improving.


Other Interesting Races Of Note

SD 4 Raised Spent COH
Dennis Guth (R) 1225 2254 14828
Susan Bangert (D) 4602 2050 5322

Guth isn’t raising much in this Northern Iowa district, while Bangert did okay. It likely won’t be enough, however, for the Democrats to invest heavily in this race when there’s so many other seats to defend.

SD 8 Raised Spent COH
Dan Dawson (R) 6150 10998 4660
Mike Gronstal (D) 46602 2267 578699

If you want to knock off the king, you’ve got to raise more than $6,000.

SD 16 Raised Spent COH
Nate Boulton (D) 25535 11525 24521

Boulton raised nearly all of that $25,000 after his primary victory. This is exactly what incumbents (or, in this case, a new candidate certain to win) are supposed to do in safe districts – raise money to help out the rest of the party. Few outside of those in leadership positions do. Good for Boulton for helping the cause before he’s even sworn in.

SD 20 Raised Spent COH
Miyoko Hikiji (D) 4001 3468 2261
Brad Zaun (R) 25 730 6042

Zaun, who represents some of the richest, most-Republican zip codes in Iowa raised $25. Ok. However, Hikiji simply doesn’t have the funds to take advantage of the complacency.

SD 42 Raised Spent COH
Rich Taylor (D) 10960 5700 12189
Danny Graber (R) 450 1920 1212

Taylor’s blue collar district in the Southeast corner of Iowa, home to Keokuk and Mt. Pleasant, could have been an area Republicans took advantage of with Trump’s crossover appeal. Doesn’t look like it’ll make a difference in this down-ballot race with Graber not doing much money-wise.

SD 48 Raised Spent COH
Dan Zumbach 12425 2378 42568
Scott Peterson 9405 2136 10189

Again, the Breitbach race is the better pick-up opportunity in the Senate. Peterson’s $9,400 haul is pretty decent for a challenger. If he gets going a little more, this could become a main targeted race depending on how the other districts go.

HD 7 Raised Spent COH
Tedd Gassman (R) 3820 1773 7004
Dave Grussing (D) 1439 603 2823

Democrats would love to steal away this Northern Iowa, Estherville/Algona-based seat, but Grussing’s fundraising won’t move this into a targeted race.

HD 13 Raised Spent COH
Chris Hall (D) 20623 6415 35847
Shaun Broyhill (R) 793 1721 14

As always, Hall remains one of the Democrats’ strongest fundraisers. Helps when your opponent only has 14 bucks, too.

HD 14 Raised Spent COH
Tim Kacena (D) 3233 835 3757
Robert Henderson (R) 1775 817 2791

The open Sioux City seat isn’t drawing a lot of money. It’s Democratic-leaning, and without a big effort from Republicans, this should easily stay in the Democratic column in a presidential year.

HD 19 Raised Spent COH
Bryce Smith (D) 1625 869 2731
Ralph Watts (R) 2635 817 10404
HD 20 Raised Spent COH
Scott Heldt (D) 2350 2836 4698
Clel Baudler (R) 0 0 1431

Dallas County Democrats are happy to have two young candidates in strongly Republican districts. However, they need a lot more money to run a full mail effort to have a shot.

HD 26 Raised Spent COH
Rebel Snodgrass (R) 2345 13959 1761
Scott Ourth (D) 15930 4653 22202

Rebel loaned $10,000 to his campaign. Part of it we assume went to this (photo via his Facebook page):

rebel atv

Ourth regularly competes with Hall on the fundraising front and turns in another solid reporting period here. His cash advantage will likely go toward the types of things that actually win over votes, like targeted direct mail.

HD 37 Raised Spent COH
Andrea Phillips (D) 3460 2115 7135
John Landon (R) 3700 1749 13228
HD 39 Raised Spent COH
Jake Highfill (R) 3250 1958 19109
Maridith Morris (D) 4308 230 11442

Democratic challengers Phillips and Morris trail in cash-on-hand in these suburban Des Moines districts, but they don’t trail the incumbent Republicans by much. Republicans hold strong registration advantages in these districts, but they might not want to get too complacent this year.

HD 40 Raised Spent COH
John Forbes (D) 4995 3934 15344
Scott Reed (R) 1605 2284 1857

Looks like Forbes should be fine in his reelection.

Walt Rogers (R) 2700 5425 13894
Gary Kroeger (D) 2784 624 16724

Former 1st District candidate Kroeger has more money in the bank than incumbent Rogers. Still needs more to run a full mail campaign, but he’s getting there. Rogers may want to up his game in this uncertain year.

HD 91 Raised Spent COH
Gary Carlson (R) 13755 8849 29721
Phil Wiese (D) 2375 4845 875

The Muscatine district probably isn’t happening for Democrats.


If you think there’s any interesting districts I missed, put it in the comments. I didn’t go through every single candidate’s filing, as I didn’t want this post to be 10,000 words long, so there may have been something juicy I missed.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 8/4/16

2 Comments on "Statehouse Fundraising – Who’s Ahead, Who’s Underperforming"

  • Pat,
    Is there any way to find out how much Koch brother money is coming into Iowa statehouse races? This would be really interesting to see. I am sure there is at least some.

  • HD3 rep. Dan Huseman will have a challenger this year. The challenger does not have enough funds raised to need to file. The challenger is Mason McCoy from Cherokee. I am still awaiting a nominating convention.

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