Who Raised The Most Money In The Iowa Legislature

The 2018 elections could see Democrats retake a chamber in the Iowa Legislature. But which candidates are best prepared financially to defend their seats? Starting Line compiled the fundraising totals of every incumbent and legislative candidate to find out. You can download the spreadsheet I made here if you want to play around with the data yourself. Dig deeper into each candidate’s filing here.

We took a look at some of the best non-incumbent fundraisers in Wednesday’s story.

The first thing to remember with these kind of reports is that, unlike the gubernatorial primary where an impressive total in the January report is crucial, many legislators and candidates don’t ramp up their fundraising effort until later in the year. Some people who will be challenger candidates in key swing districts only just announced in the past weeks or are yet to do so before the March filing deadline. The exception, of course, is the small handful of legislative races that do face primaries. So, don’t assume some incumbent is done for just because they only raised a couple thousand dollars in 2017 – they still have plenty of time.

That all being said, it’s still interesting to see how much House and Senate leadership members raised, as well as which candidates facing tough reelection efforts used 2017 to prepare themselves (or scare off competition). An incumbent with a huge war chest may make potential challengers rethink spending a year of their life campaigning in an uphill battle. Those incumbents’ totals may also dissuade the opposing side’s PACs, large donors and lobbyists from donating to their challenger.

On the other hand, some swing districts will be swingy regardless of what the candidates raise, and both parties will dump in hundreds of thousands of dollars no matter what to win them.

Let’s start off with a look at the top 10 fundraisers at the Statehouse.

District Name Party  Raised  Spent  COH
SD 25 Bill Dix R  460,946  104,704  425,163
HD 54 Linda Upmeyer R  358,766  66,034  341,396
SD 19 Jack Whitver R  168,407  4,475  195,924
HD 43 Chris Hagenow R  144,145  34,465  131,338
SD 33 Rob Hogg D  102,927  25,177  91,141
SD 47 Roby Smith R  97,663  5,102  126,586
HD 71 Mark Smith D  87,260  2,813  113,266
SD 22 Charles Schneider R  67,200  7,324  62,868
SD 10 Jacob Chapman R  61,660  85,199  22,189
SD 18 Janet Petersen D  57,155  3,288  58,338

This is essentially a list of leadership from each chamber. Dix is majority leader, Upmeyer is the speaker, Whitver is senate president, Hagenow is house majority leader, Smith is house minority leader, Schneider is senate majority whip, Petersen is senate minority leader. Hogg was the minority leader until October of last year.

Chapman and Smith are the only ones not in a leadership role, though Chapman is chair of the Commerce Committee. With this level of fundraising, he’ll probably be in leadership next year. Chapman gave $75,000 from his campaign account to the Republican Party of Iowa (he also spent $400 on jackets for his campaign, which Starting Line kind of wants to see what they look like). Smith has a very tough reelection effort.

Upmeyer got $30,000 from Kyle Krause, who owns Kum and Go, and $25,000 from Des Moines businessman James Cownie. Iowa Health PAC gave $16,000. Real estate leader Dennis Elwell and Iowa Realtors PAC gave $15,000 each, while Dave Steffens, Richard Stark and the PACs for Bankers Unite and Associatied General Contractors all gave $10,000 each.

Dix received $30,000 from Krause as well, $25,000 from Kurt Rasmussen, $15,000 from Jeanie Rissi, $15,000 from Dennis Elwell and $15,000 from Doug Mcaninch. Bruce Rastetter donated $10,000.

Democrats didn’t bring in nearly as many large checks to their individual campaign accounts. However, determining how much leadership actually raised is complicated. Many times, leaders like Janet Petersen and Mark Smith will raise funds directly to the Senate Majority Fund and House Truman Fund (other incumbents help with that, too) as opposed to their personal campaign accounts.

Those senate and house committees’ totals are rolled in to the entire state party’s fundraising, and you can’t break it out through the public reports. So while it’s rather interesting that Hogg actually raised more money than Petersen for his personal account (Hogg was removed as leader in part because of fundraising concerns), both Hogg and Petersen were raising money directly into the party, which we can’t see the specifics on.

What we can see is that the Iowa Democratic Party is currently in a much better shape than the Republican Party of Iowa. The IDP reported raising $1,020,833 in 2017, and they currently have $659,670 cash-on-hand. RPI reported contributions of $587,732 in 2017, and ended the year with just $6,388 cash-on-hand.

However, this is where it gets tricky to compare things considering Dix and Upmeyer can transfer large chunks of their own money to RPI at any time. They almost certainly did so soon after the end of the year to both help RPI make payroll and fund the expenses for the Sioux City special election – those costs weren’t in the final weeks of the 2017 report.

In fact, it appears that around $360,000 of RPI’s reported fundraising came from Republican state legislators contributing money from their campaign accounts – that’s over half of RPI’s total. Those funds almost always get funneled into the internal committees that oversee senate and house races.

Only around $225,000 of the IDP’s fundraising came from individual legislators’ accounts, or less than one fourth of the party’s total. But that’s because Democratic leaders direct donors to donate specifically to the senate and house committees that are within the party.

Confusing enough yet?

To get a better understanding of how much funds each party has at its disposal, you need to consider both the cash-on-hand of the party and their top legislative leaders. If you add up all the numbers from legislative incumbents and candidates and combine that with the state party totals (still not a perfect representation, but closer), you get this:

Democrats (legislative and IDP) raised: $2.2 million
Democrats (legislative and IDP) cash-on-hand: $2.1 million

Republicans (legislative and RPI) raised: $3.1 million
Republicans (legislative and RPI) cash-on-hand: $2.6 million

For a party out of power, that’s not half bad for Democrats to be so close with cash-on-hand.

Let’s move on to something that’s a little more clear cut.

There’s a lot of incumbents who face difficult reelections in 2018, whether it’s a wave year for Democrats or not. Here’s the incumbent senators who could see a competitive race this year (including some that may be on the outside edge of that realm):

District Name Party  Raised  Spent  COH
SD 01 David Johnson I  1,500  9,337  5,043
SD 05 Tim Kraayenbrink R  32,745  922  36,009
SD 07 Rick Bertrand R  10,050  12,213  30,769
SD 13 Julian Garrett R  8,065  197  12,814
SD 15 Chaz Allen D  19,293  1,910  19,835
SD 19 Jack Whitver R  168,407  4,475  195,924
SD 27 Amanda Ragan D  37,420  3,894  52,631
SD 29 Tod Bowman D  9,461  5,397  25,152
SD 39 Kevin Kinney D  30,040  5,656  30,806
SD 41 Mark Chelgren R  8,035  1,060  7,989
SD 47 Roby Smith R  97,663  5,102  126,586
SD 49 Rita Hart D  24,000  2,658  35,824

On the Democratic side, most of the senators built up their campaign accounts to prepare for Republican opponents. Bowman didn’t raise much for his district that shifted hard to the right in 2016, but his opponent, Carrie Koelker of Dyersville, didn’t report raising anything (she has since started to fundraise in the new year). It’s not clear yet if Kinney or Allen will face serious competition.

Ragan has a solid war chest ready to defend her Mason City-based district that Trump won 55% to 40%. She drew what sounds like a tough opponent – Shannon Latham, the daughter-in-law of former Congressman Tom Latham. However, Latham only raised $7,192 so far. You would think she has a massive donor network to tap into, but that may come later.

As we wrote earlier, Hart’s opponent, Chris Cournoyer, raised a good $20,497.

For Republicans, it’s clear that Smith badly wants to hold onto his Bettendorf district, which Clinton actually won by one point in 2016 and is a suburban area shifting toward Democrats. Smith raised just under $100,000 to prepare for his Democratic candidate, Marie Gleason, who announced in November and has brought in $5,507 so far.

Bertrand has been on the outs with senate leadership, and hasn’t publicly said if he’s running for reelection yet. His $10,050 raised doesn’t make it seem like he’s too excited about another run, but Bertrand has been able to raise a lot of money in quick time in past cycles. Jackie Smith just announced her run as a Democrat in the Sioux City seat, and hasn’t had to report yet.

Both Chelgren and Garrett raised less than their declared Democratic opponents. Mary Stewart, running against Chelgren, raised $11,179. Another Democrat, Ed Malloy, just announced there. Vicki Brenner, Garrett’s opponent, raised $25,517.

Democrats would like to move Whitver’s Ankeny district onto the battleground map, though nearly $200,000 cash-on-hand is daunting. As part of the leadership team, Whitver is probably planning to put those funds into the senate committee’s efforts, but can keep all his money home if he’s feeling nervous. Democratic candidate Amber Gustafson raised $12,839 for the fight.

Kraayenbrink is probably fine in his Fort Dodge-based district, but he has over $36,000 cash-on-hand just to be safe.

The lone independent in the senate, David Johnson, sure didn’t raise much. Republicans very much want to retake this deep-red Northwest Iowa seat, though the declared candidate, Zach Whiting, a Steve King staffer, only raised $6,310.

Now let’s look at the House. Here’s some of the incumbents worth watching:

District Name Party  Raised  Spent  COH
HD 09 Helen Miller D  5,600  4,464  8,003
HD 15 Charlie McConkey D  9,627  4,781  13,234
HD 26 Scott Ourth D  16,660  8,669  8,052
HD 30 Zach Nunn R  14,825  9,839  47,108
HD 38 Kevin Koester R  9,665  2,073  17,688
HD 39 Jake Highfill R  24,000  7,855  24,887
HD 42 Peter Cownie R  42,625  16,282  30,980
HD 43 Chris Hagenow R  144,145  34,465  131,338
HD 44 Rob Taylor R  8,078  10,992  14,195
HD 47 Chip Baltimore R  21,657  7,816  16,762
HD 51 Jane Bloomingdale R  13,025  2,062  21,541
HD 55 Michael Bergan R  3,650  619  5,030
HD 56 Kristi Hager R  1,025  2,017  706
HD 57 Shannon Lundgren R  11,040  4,280  7,182
HD 58 Andy McKean R  15,910  910  16,379
HD 60 Walt Rogers R  21,143  13,405  18,260
HD 64 Bruce Bearinger D  9,794  6,100  11,754
HD 67 Ashley Hinson R  41,391  2,330  53,903
HD 68 Ken Rizer R  17,875  1,789  12,108
HD 72 Dean Fisher R  7,285  1,521  6,083
HD 73 Bobby Kaufmann R  43,185  11,826  31,883
HD 81 Mary Gaskill D  5,965  1,804  8,111
HD 82 Phil Miller D  1,785  –  706
HD 91 Gary Carlson R  14,900  10,158  18,258
HD 92 Scott Paustian R  17,475  4,500  15,041
HD 94 Gary Mohr R  19,780  2,627  29,080
HD 95 Louie Zumbach R  16,810  3,469  23,334

We’re not going to get into every single one of these races, but there are some interesting overall trends. Democratic challengers (see the full spreadsheet for them) are seeing some momentum. The average raised for a Democratic non-incumbent house candidate is $11,069, up from an average of $6,500 from at this point in the 2016 cycle. At the end of 2017, there were only four Republican challengers to incumbent Democrats – just Ann Meyer, running for Fort Dodge’s HD 9, produced real fundraising numbers.

And most of those incumbent Democrats look well-positioned for their reelection efforts. Ourth will be perfectly fine in his rematch against Rebel Snodgrass, who has raised just $1,595 so far. The only area for concern is that Fort Dodge district, where Helen Miller just announced her retirement yesterday.

For Republicans, most endangered incumbents made real effort to raise money in 2017. Hinson has over $50,000 cash-on-hand now to defend her Cedar Rapids suburbs seat. Hagenow is in the same position as Whitver – a seat Democrats think they can win, but the incumbent has a ton of money.

Koester of Ankeny didn’t raise too much – he faces either Heather Matson in a rematch or Reyma McCoy McDeid, who raised $1,667. Taylor of HD 44 – the Dallas County suburbs – doesn’t seem too concerned about his seat, which Clinton nearly won. It’s a district that could get close in a large wave year.

Cownie raised $42,625 for his West Des Moines-based seat, which is seen as a top pick-up opportunity, though it’s unclear if Cownie will actually seek reelection. Hager is also on retirement watch (she may run for a supervisor seat instead), and only raised $1,025 for her Northeast Iowa seat. Democrat Lori Egan brought in $5,080 to run for that district. Bergan, who represents the neighboring Decorah-based seat, didn’t do much in 2017 either, raising just $3,650. That weakness could draw some more interest into the HD 55 district.


by Pat Rynard
Posted 1/26/18

1 Comment on "Who Raised The Most Money In The Iowa Legislature"

  • HD 55 in Decorah could get interesting due to the highly unusual prospect of the State Auditor race having coattails there — Rob Sand’s announcement in Decorah had governor-level attendance (as you’ve previously noted). In a close race, Sand’s network turning out could give the Democrat a little boost.

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