With all the Iowa political news that happened last week, it may have been easy to overlook some of the state legislative fundraising numbers that came out in the latest finance report. But there was a lot of interesting details in there, as well as plenty of great signs for Iowa Democrats.
House Democrats were the standout winners of the latest fundraising numbers. Their candidates out-raised their Republican opponents in 42 of the 69 races where both parties had a candidate filed. First-time Democratic candidates pulled in impressive totals, including Kenan Judge of Waukee, who set a record for new candidate fundraising. Judge’s $73,154 total was only topped by two other people: House Democratic leader Mark Smith and former Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix, who is no longer with us.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the best fundraisers of the January 1 – May 14 reporting period before delving into other observations. You can see my full spreadsheet here. See our previous post on the January fundraising numbers for more.
Kenan Judge: House District 44 (open seat)
Total Raised: $73,154
This Waukee-based district didn’t cross Democrats’ minds as a potential swing seat for quite a while, but incumbent Rob Taylor’s retirement and the shifting political loyalties in the Des Moines suburbs puts it on the map. You still need a good candidate to win, and Democrats have one of their best recruits in the state with Kenan Judge.
A Hy-Vee employee for nearly 40 years, Judge worked his way from butcher to company V.P. He’s well-known in the community, has crossover support with many Republicans, led charity efforts for the local food pantry and homeless youth shelter and is related to the larger Judge political family in Iowa.
His main Republican opponent, Anna Bergman, raised $11,625. The district also includes most of West Des Moines in Dallas County and a small part of Clive and Waukee. Donald Trump carried it by just 3%, a marked improvement for Democrats over past years.
Zach Wahls: Senate District 37 (open seat)
Total Raised: $67,680
The nationally-known 26-year-old Democrat has now raised over $121,000 for his state senate race to fill retiring Bob Dvorsky’s seat. If Wahls is successful in the four-way race, watch for him to become a top fundraiser for the party, which could help Senate Democrats pick up swing seats across the state. In the meantime, he faces Janice Weiner and two others in a still-competitive primary. Weiner brought in a respectable $16,335 (and loaned herself another $9,000) in this reporting period, and has spent that money well with a real direct mail investment.
Connie Ryan: Senate District 21 (open seat)
Total Raised: $41,732
The race to replace Matt McCoy is seeing some significant spending from both candidates. Ryan topped her competitor Claire Celsi in money raised, but Celsi still brought in a strong $28,772, making this one of the closest primaries to keep an eye on. Both candidates have the money needed to finish out the primary with a decent advertising and field operation. This is another district where Democrats hope the winner will help raise funds for the rest of the ticket. The Republican candidate, Brian Bales, raised just $3,655.
Heather Matson: House District 38
Total Raised: $35,064
In her second bid to take on Republican incumbent Kevin Koester in the Ankeny-based district, Matson is putting together a sizable war chest. This total tops her first report from her 2016 run, which is good as it’s not always easy to raise as much money in a second try. If she keeps up this pace, Matson should be well-funded to take on Koester in a year that ought to be more favorable to Democrats than 2016. This time Matson faces a primary, and Reyma McCoy McDeid brought in a solid $12,069.
Lindsay James: House District 99 (open seat)
Total Raised: $30,164
James is once again near the top of the statewide fundraising numbers in her competitive primary to fill Abby Finkenauer’s seat in the Iowa House. She has enough funds that she’s placed a large digital ad buy and is even up with TV ads. Brad Cavanaugh, the other main Democratic candidate in the race, raised $8,317 this period.
The $20,000+ Club
A long list of challenger candidates raised over $20,000 in their campaigns. That doesn’t happen too often at this point in the election, and it seems to show that Democratic activists and donors are eager to cut checks for candidates who can win back the Statehouse. It’s also thanks to some long hours that candidates are putting in now to ensure they’re well-funded for the Fall.
Amber Gustafson, the Moms Demand Action leader for Iowa, is turning into one of the Senate Democrats’ best fundraisers. Her challenge to new Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver might have gotten written off in other years, but her $29,689 raised this filing brings her up to over $42,000 raised overall for Ankeny’s SD 19 contest. Whitver raised $40,740 and has an imposing $228,677 cash on hand.
The Democratic primary for Mark Chelgren’s SD 41 seat is seeing some action. Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy raised $29,593, more than Mary Stewart‘s $13,041 (she also loaned herself an additional $5,000). The Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks, considered a strong fundraiser from her congressional runs, brought in $11,418.
Megan Srinivas is a House candidate to have on your radar. The Democrat running to replace retiring Helen Miller in Fort Dodge’s HD 9 brought in $26,018. Srinivas returned to her hometown to practice medicine after attending Harvard University and John Hopkins. Her main Republican opponent, Ann Meyer, had a good initial report last time and brought in $8,556 for this period.
Over in the Cedar Rapids suburbs, Eric Gjerde continues to build a strong campaign to take on Republican Ashley Hinson in HD 67. He raised $26,003, adding to his previous haul of $16,326. That’s more than twice what Hinson got: $11,075.
A trio of female Democratic House candidates challenging Republican incumbents all also got over the $20,000 mark. Karin Derry brought in $23,624 for her HD 39 campaign against Jake Highfill. Kayla Koether raised $20,551 in her Decorah-based HD 55 bid to take on Michael Bergan. Kristin Sunde totaled $20,296 as she works to oust Peter Cownie from West Des Moines’ HD 42. All three out-raised their Republican incumbent.
David Weaver, a farmer, may also put a seat that isn’t always on the target map near the top of the list. He raised $20,286 for the Boone-based HD 47 where Chip Baltimore is retiring from. Weaver’s raised more than his three potential Republican opponents combined.
Finally, on the Senate side of things, Jackie Smith looks very well-positioned to pick up the Sioux City SD 7 seat. Republican Rick Bertrand is leaving that district, and Smith raised $21,510 to Republican Steven Stokes‘ meager $1,050.
And some Republican senate challengers posted good totals as well. Shannon Latham raised $25,607 as she tries to defeat Senator Amanda Ragan in SD 27. And Chris Cournoyer got $20,020 in this reporting period for her SD 49 race against Senator Rita Hart.
Finally, Jennifer Konfrst got just shy of the $20,000 mark with her $19,608, but we’ll add her in all the same. Partly because she has a healthy $40,664 cash on hand to go up against Republican Michael Boal, who has $5,802 in the bank. This is the HD 43 seat that Chris Hagenow left to go find a safer Republican district further west.
Senators not on the ballot don’t have to file in this report, so we don’t have a full picture of where everything stands. But there were still some other interesting numbers.
Bill Dix gave about a half million of his campaign funds straight to the party after his resignation. Rick Bertrand, on the other hand, didn’t contribute a dime of his remaining dollars to the party. One more middle finger to the party establishment he often warred with while in office.
House Democratic Leader Mark Smith out-raised Speaker Linda Upmeyer. Smith brought in $75,733 to Upmeyer’s $53,665. Majority Leader Chris Hagenow only raised $35,650. Republicans will certainly end up with more cash than Democrats for the cycle (and Upmeyer has more on hand), but it’s a good place to start.
Several House Democratic candidates also out-raised the Republican incumbent they plan to run against by significant margins. Tim Knutson in Northern Iowa’s HD 51 raised $17,549 compared to incumbent Jane Bloomingdale‘s $3,525. Christian Andrews, Democrats’ candidate for rural Linn County’s HD 95, reported $14,932 to incumbent Louie Zumbach‘s $1,050.
And some Democrats running in very Republican areas saw good success. Karen Larson, the Democrat running in HD 1, the very Northwest corner of the state, out-raised incumbent John Wills, $6,356 to $5,175. Jake Thompson, HD 10’s Democratic candidate, raised $9,565 to incumbent Republican Mike Sexton‘s $8,761 (that’s another Western Iowa district). Peter Leo, the Democrat running in the Carroll-based HD 12, brought in $13,537, while Republican Representative Brian Best got $12,671. James Uhlenkamp, a Democrat running for Southeast Iowa’s HD 24 raised $9,947 to incumbent Cecil Dolecheck‘s $4,275.
A couple other Democrats are looking strong early on. Ann Fields, the likely Democratic nominee for Knoxville’s HD 28 (an open seat), got $17,275 this finance period. Just east of there in HD 80, Democrat Susan McDanel raised $12,376, more than the two Republican candidates combined. David Williams raised $12,362 to take on his neighbor Walt Rogers in the Cedar Falls-based HD 60. Jodi Clemons followed up on her strong initial finance report with another solid total: she raised an additional $13,342 for her race against Bobby Kaufmann in HD 73.
In other races, the primary to take on Shannon Lundgren has both Democrats in the primary doing well and at pretty equal footing on the financial front. Leo Gansen raised $15,951, while Nancy Fett brought in $13,531. The same can’t be said for Marion’s HD 68, where you could be surprised that there will be a marquee battle for now-former Representative Ken Rizer’s seat given the fundraising totals. On the Democratic primary side, Molly Donahue got $4,465 to Scott Foens‘ $1,955. The Republican Randy Ray raised $4,992. Democratic incumbent Rick Olson ramped up his fundraising efforts now that he has a primary. He got $17,450 in to fend off Tiffany Allison, who raised $3,674.
Back on the Senate side, former Representative Dave Dawson raised a solid $14,495 for his run in SD 3. That should keep Republicans busy in a safe seat they would otherwise ignore. Vicky Brenner had another strong showing with $15,328 in SD 13. And Tracey Freese refilled some of her coffers with $11,989 after her special election race for SD 25.
There were a couple other Democratic challenger candidates who got over $10,000, including Joan Marttila in HD 94, Warren Varley in HD 20, Marie Gleason in SD 47, Rita DeJong in HD 6 and Laura Liegois in HD 91.
Quite a few Democratic incumbents, however, had very sad, meager totals. That won’t help when these other candidates in swing districts need some assistance from the state party. Of course, it’s harder to raise money during the legislative session, so they get a pass for now (which they should be thankful for, considering some literally raised $0). Starting Line won’t be as forgiving after the next report.
by Pat Rynard