Issue #34

It's FEC report week! We're keeping track of 100 candidates now - when did that happen?

It’s that time of the quarter again, where every candidate for federal office has top file their campaign finance reports, and we get a window into the state of campaigns across the country. Fundraising is of course just one aspect of a campaign’s health. But it’s one of the few quantifiable numbers we get to see, and there’s a lot of information contained within: notable supporters, signs of reach within a district, even interesting expenses. The deadline to file was last night at midnight, and most campaigns like to run right up against it, so we haven’t had the time to pour over the details of every report, but there’s still a lot going on here. Without further ado,

Third Quarter Fundraising

Our thoughts

  • AZ-01: Flagstaff City Councilor Eva Putzova still isn’t raising much money, especially for a district as sprawling and diverse as this, while former state Senator Barbara McGuire didn’t file, which either means she blew the deadline or raised less than $5,000. Either way, not a great sign. Arizona has a late primary, so Putzova still has a while to grow her campaign into something that could seriously challenge O’Halleran, but it’s been 8 months and she’s still at this level, so it doesn’t seem terribly likely.

  • CA-14: We haven’t covered lefty Pelosi challenger Shahid Buttar before, mostly because he ran in 2018, along with another candidate in a similar vein, and Pelosi still got 78% of the Democratic vote. Buttar is raising significantly more money this time around, but Pelosi, a national figure with sky-high favorability among Democrats, is probably safe.

  • CA-16: Fresno City Councilor Esmeralda Soria did very well, and in a cheap seat against an opponent known for lazy fundraising (even though 55% of his haul is PAC money), that $153K will go even further. A look at her donors reveals a lot of California politicians on board: city councilors from Bakersfield and Sacramento, a San Diego County Councilor, chiefs of staff for two state senators, and curiously enough, the district director for Congressman TJ Cox of the neighboring 21st district, who was allegedly threatened with withdrawal of party support if he didn’t vote to endorse Costa at the party convention. A few unions also donated, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Fresno firefighters’ union. We encourage journalists and progressive organizations to take a long look at this race.

  • CA-18: Saratoga City Councilor Rishi Kumar was strong out of the gate in Q1, but it seems like he tapped his donor list early and his fundraising has been tapering off since then. We can’t say we’re disappointed, considering his ties to Indian political party BJP, which is nativist and theocratic at best and downright fascist at worst.

  • CA-53: Keep in mind these big hauls came from a race that was only started less than three weeks ago. Sara Jacobs unsurprisingly has access to a lot of big money donors from her 2018 campaign for CA-49. We’re actually pretty surprised how well Georgette Gómez did, but a quick perusal of her donors reveals a few San Diego politicians, so it seems like the San Diego establishment might have decided on her out of the gate—somewhat surprising, as she’s a progressive activist type and the San Diego establishment is known for producing guys like Scott Peters. Goldbeck is the odd candidate out in all of this, but she has enough donors to stay in what looks to be an expensive battle.

  • FL-05: This race was pretty dead over the summer. Maybe Chester’s decision to self-fund $25,000 means he’s about to take it a lot more seriously? Okay, probably not, but who knows?

  • GA-13: This race is so frustrating. Scott is one of the worst Democrats in Congress, and this year we got two candidates who both looked good on paper, but it doesn’t look like either are going anywhere.

  • HI-02: Once again, we’re displaying Gabbard’s numbers in the format of House/President. Tulsi’s House numbers are deceptive, of course, since she still has $2.1M sitting in her presidential account (although she’s spending faster than she’s taking in, so who knows how much she’ll have when she drops out of the race). Kahele on the other hand is doing okay, although this quarter was a drop from Q2’s $145K. Mostly a status quo report this time around.

  • IL-01: Even though he didn’t file on time, we’re going to assume Rush didn’t raise much, because he never does. He’s probably vulnerable, and if you were to somehow combine Emmons and Gad you’d probably have a good challenger. As it is, though, this isn’t the quarter that convinces us to take this race seriously.

  • IL-03: Marie Newman raised more than double what Dan Lipinski did. This is simultaneously not too surprising, given Newman’s support from a wide array of local and national politicians and activist groups, and also a minor earthquake given that a challenger just outriased an incumbent 2:1. More notable, however, is where Dan Lipinski got his money, because some of it was really shady shit. He reported $10,000 from Cheniere Energy, a fracking company; $1,500 from Exxon Mobil; $2,500 from Exelon, an energy company whose CEO just resigned due to an FBI probe into the company’s lobbying (that same probe resulted in FBI raids of Illinois state Sen. Marty Sandoval’s home and office); and thousands more from various health insurance, fossil fuel, and telecom PACs. He also got $1,000 from Synergy PAC, which is Connecticut Rep. John Larson’s PAC. (Larson represents a safely Democratic district based in Hartford, so he deserves a primary for this alone.) Unfortunately, it looks like our fears of a split progressive field were real: activist Rush Darwish raised $211K and self-funded another $62K. While there are some districts where we still need to let the field play out to see who the stronger challenger is, in this case it’s clear Darwish needs to drop out, or he could very well reelect Lipinski.

  • IL-07: Those Kristine Schanbacher numbers are eye-popping. She is, however, a white moderate with no political ties in this black-majority district, which is an extremely difficult starting position. Kina Collins didn’t raise too much, much like last time around.

  • MD-05: This is disappointing to see from Wilkes, who pulled in a promising $46K in her second quarter and who looked like she was on the ascent. A lack of outside support is probably a big reason why she backtracked this quarter. It’s just extremely difficult to put together a campaign as a lone activist. Hopefully the total implosion of Urbina (that negative sign is not a typo) helps convince any progressive groups interested in this race that there’s only one viable challenger.

  • MA-Sen: See item.

  • MA-01: Morse did really well for a first time candidate, pulling in $217K, and Neal is pulling in about what you’d expect. Neal has more money than he could possibly spend on this race, so the fundraising here is mostly going to be about whether Morse can run the campaign he wants to, and the answer so far is yes.

  • MA-04: Rich guy and ex-Senate candidate Alan Khazei pulled in the kind of money you’d expect a rich guy with a donor list to pull in. He’s probably going to dominate the airwaves in this race, but that doesn’t automatically win you the race. Becky Grossman did well and showed why people were talking her up as a top contender. A pleasant surprise is Ihssane Leckey, who has decided to go all in with the news of the open seat, and loaned herself $100K. Obviously she’s not a multi-millionaire and so she’ll still need to get donations, but if she can establish herself as a top contender early, being the progressive candidate would be a route forward for her.

  • MA-06: Most of that Moulton money is a transfer of the last of his presidential campaign funds, which means that’s it for him. That’s all the money he has right now, providing a serious opening for a challenger. Jamie Zahlaway Belsito is thankfully not raising much, but Salem City Councilor Lisa Peterson brought in an acceptable-ish $34K.

  • MA-08: Brianna Wu had been simmering under $50K in previous quarters (including last year), so this is a pleasant surprise. She also keeps getting local press attention, so her campaign seems like it’s on a better track than 2018, but then again she finished with 23% that year, so she has a ways to go still.

  • MO-01: Hard to say much about Cori Bush’s fundraising when she hasn’t released the numbers yet

  • NM-Sen: Ouch. This fundraising disparity isn’t quite as bad as Q2, when Lujan raised $1.1M to Toulouse Olvier’s $227K, but it’s close. And Toulouse Oliver’s high burn rate means that Lujan is closing in on $2M in reserves while Toulouse Oliver has almost nothing in the bank. This race might be over before the primary, which would suck.

  • NM-03: Valarie Plame just opened this thing wide up with a $447K quarter. The sheer size of that number compared to the rest of the field is imposing, but there are two important caveats to keep in mind here. One, she’s a minor national celebrity, and her donor list looks distinctly non-New Mexican, so this is more of case of her getting money than that money reflecting support in the district. It’s not like money isn’t useful, but money raised from the district signals support in addition to raw dollars. Two, she’s already spent a lot of that money, including on over $100,000 worth of digital ads. Leger had a similar quarter to Q2, so nothing crazy there. Serna’s fundraising fell off a cliff, something we’re not particularly saddened by after seeing his awful, centrist policy statements (the Green New Deal is bad because it targets coal and natural gas, apparently). Newcomer progressive, gay ex-Maggie Toulouse Oliver staffer John Blair entered strong, and made it clear that this should be considered a 4 way race with him, Plame, Serna, and Leger. Environmentalist Kyle Tisdel raised only $41K, which means he’ll need a lot of activist support if he wants oxygen in this crowded race. Neither Joe Sanchez nor Laura Montoya raised much, which, good.

  • NJ-05: Josh Gottheimer has more money than god. No shock there. Arati Kreibich raised a respectable six figures, and with help from the activists in the district she can probably make that go far. Again, it’s a Trump district, so we’re going to refrain from commenting too much on this one.

  • NY-03: Melanie D’Arrigo had an unimpressive quarter, but D’Arrigo’s self-funding might indicate she’s committed to running a real race. Awful Democratic incumbent Tom Suozzi had a strong quarter and has an insane amount of money on hand.

  • NY-09: Incumbent Yvette Clarke got outraised by Adem Bunkeddeko, who nearly sent her packing in 2018. Clarke’s problem last time around was that she never took her reelection race seriously, and that clearly hasn’t changed. Bunkeddeko was not in the race for the full quarter, making this even more impressive. However, there’s one bit of good news for Clarke: Michael Hiller, a progressive lawyer, raised $46,000 and self-funded another $54,000. If Hiller, who is white, can take votes from Bunkeddeko in the upscale white neighborhoods where Bunkeddeko crushed Clarke in 2018, Clarke can win with a plurality of the vote. (Bunkeddeko and Clarke, like the majority of the district’s population, are Black.)

  • NY-10: Neither Jerry Nadler nor Lindsey Boylan had their best quarter, each pulling in under $200K, which is significantly less than either got last quarter and honestly embarrassing for a powerful incumbent like Nadler. Maybe they had a pact to take it easy this quarter? At least Boylan didn't self-fund $84K like she did last quarter. Running a PAC-free campaign, Boylan outraised Nadler $155K to $136K among individuals.

  • NY-12: Hawkish, anti-vaccine incumbent Carolyn Maloney raised $303K, followed by 2018 challenger Suraj Patel with $95K, housing activist Peter Harrison with $23K, and comedian Lauren Ashcraft with $21K. Patel entered the race quite recently, so that’s a strong start, but he has a lot of liabilities. Meanwhile, Harrison and Ashcraft are struggling, and they’ll need to do more if they want to compete. (Harrison has worked with our editor, Sean McElwee, on housing policy; Sean has recused himself from editing our NY-12 coverage.)

  • NY-14: See item.

  • NY-15: Councilmember Ritchie Torres outraised everyone in this race again even though he raised less than in Q2, when he was fundraising for this race full-time. Assemblymember Michael Blake is catching up to Torres, with only about $100K now separating the two’s fundraising. Blake, however, spent much more money (including nearly $32,000 on fundraising) so Torres is currently sitting on nearly 4 times as much money. Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito posted strong numbers as well, reaching six figures despite not having filed until the middle of the quarter and now has almost as much cash on hand as Blake. Lots of other candidates filed for this race in the middle of the quarter as well, so we'll have to see what they can do with a full quarter for Q4. Rodriguez’s low total is perhaps excusable because he raised it in only 10 days, but Marlene Cintron’s was just terrible. Finally, the awful Ruben Diaz Sr. thankfully phoned it in this quarter and only brought in $44K.

  • NY-16: It's becoming clear in this race which progressive challenger knows how to fundraise. Jamaal Bowman did decently, bringing in $112K to incumbent Rep. Eliot Engel's $317K. Andom Ghebreghiorgis, on the other hand, only raised $32K, which is somehow even worse than he did last quarter. Ghebreghiorgis needs to start getting serious about his fundraising if he wants to stay in this race.

  • OH-03: This is possibly the biggest fundraising result of the quarter. Morgan Harper, a first-time candidate running to the left, outraised uncontroversial incumbent Joyce Beatty by nearly $100,000, without a dime of PAC money. Harper raised more than any other challenger this quarter, and as a first quarter, she’s par with other recent primary success stories Seth Moulton ($355K, 2014), Dwight Evans ($359K, 2016), and Ayanna Pressley ($363K, 2018).

  • OR-03: We haven’t mentioned this race before. Blumenauer is a pretty progressive member of Congress, but there’s always room for improvement, which DSA-affiliated Lee would likely be. But right now he’s not raising the kind of money he needs to.

  • OR-04: Last quarter, activist Doyle Canning raised $37,000 in just a few days, which is impressive for anyone, much less an insurgent primary challenger in a swing district. She raised only $30,000 this quarter, despite having a full three months to fundraise this time. Incumbent Peter DeFazio, a solid progressive aside from his timid oversight of the Trump administration as chairman of the House Transportation Committee, raised a solid $295,000.

  • OR-05: Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba did a little better than last quarter, but still isn’t raising much. That looks to change with a big fundraiser the Portland progressive community threw Gamba, but that fundraiser happened in October, so it won’t be reflected here.

  • PA-18: Looks like Mike Doyle didn’t learn from last quarter when his opponent Gerald Dickinson almost matched him in fundraising, since this time Doyle raised $207K, which is less than double his lackluster Q2 number. Although, to be fair, Dickinson completely flopped this quarter, only bringing in $22K, so maybe Doyle’s instincts are actually pretty good.

  • TX-28: We covered Cisneros’s spectacular numbers last week, but we didn’t have Cuellar’s in yet. Now we do, and we can say that Cuellar only barely outraised her, which is a good place for a challenger to be. Looking through Cuellar’s donations (which are “only” 46% PAC this time around), we see a lot of the typical corporate goons on his side: oil lobbyists, the American Petroleum Institute, and so on, but we also noticed a donation from Diane Rath, Board Member of the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, an ultra-conservative, high-dollar think tank chaired by ultra-conservative state senator Larry Talor. Henry Cuellar, same as he ever was.

  • WA-06: Tacoma activist and democratic socialist Rebecca Parson raised $44K in her first quarter, which is, you know, pretty good but nothing special and something she’ll need to dwarf in coming quarters to be competitive.

IL-11, TN-09: As we said last quarter, sometimes a candidate looks strong on paper and then just doesn’t perform. It happens.

Other news this week

MA-Sen

Huh. Even with Kennedy’s late entry date, we did not expect Markey to outraise the boy with the golden name. They have nearly $9 million between them already, so if you’re in Massachusetts, get ready to get buried in ads. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that the top fundraiser was actually labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan, who put down $2M of her own money. That’s a lot of money, even for a Senate race, and it’s a clear sign that she doesn’t intend to let this become a two-way race. You may be noticing someone’s missing from this list.

Steve Pemberton, a business executive who spent years in the foster system as a child and who has made a name for himself as a motivational figure through his memoir (later adapted to film) has dropped out of the Democratic primary for the Massachusetts senate race. As he put it, he “ran into an impenetrable wall of legacy and birthright”. That’s a pretty fair assessment of the race, honestly. With the entire state viewing this as a competition between established properties Ed Markey and Joe Kennedy III, there’s very little room for a competitor to establish themselves. Labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan has obviously decided to fight it out anyway, and we suppose Pemberton just widened whatever narrow path she has forward.

NY-14

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has already attracted a horde of weirdo conservative fame-chasers running as Republicans in her race, so why not one running as a Democrat? City Councilman Fernando Cabrera is best described as… well he’s best described as another Rubén Díaz Sr. Cabrera is, like Díaz, an evangelical preacher in the Bronx. He also holds the same backwards and bigoted social views as Díaz, praising the government of Uganda after they instituted the death penalty for homosexuality and regularly appearing at the events of anti-gay hate group Family Leadership Council. Cabrera previously attempted to primary progressive state senator Gustavo Rivera at the behest of the IDC, a group of nominal Democrats in the senate who caucused with Republicans to give them control of the chamber (see more on them in the Carlucci section of NY-17), and when he lost he blamed the liberal media. He has also given at least one sermon on how the rich deserve what they have because they can handle more pressure.

Cabrera announced his campaign against AOC this week, and his chances in this race are pretty terrible. He doesn’t live in or represent any of the district, already ate shit twice trying to primary out a progressive in the senate, and since he’s termed out in 2021, it sure seems like he’s just looking for something to do. He joins Queens Community Board Member Badrun Khan in the primary on AOC’s right. Considering AOC’s level of celebrity and her stunning $1.4M fundraising haul this quarter, we don’t see either of them cutting it.

NY-17

Democratic Representative Nita Lowey, the chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and the 9th longest serving Democrat in the House, announced her retirement this week. In interviews after her announcement she stressed that her primary challenger, Modaire Jones, was “absolutely irrelevant” in her decision. Now, we don’t know what’s going on in her head, and that very well may be true, but she didn’t list any pressing reasons to retire, and with the potential of heading perhaps the House’s most powerful committee during a potentially generation-defining 2021-2023 Congress, it’s not a leap to suspect the prospect of having to go through the grueling process of a real campaign for the first time in 28 years might have been weighing on her mind. Regardless, she’s moving on from Congress and we wish her well in her retirement. Her stepping down without any clear successor set off a scramble for her seat, so it sounds like it’s time for our fifth open seat survey:

  • Mondaire Jones is running, and has had a pretty great week all things considered. First, he was able to announce a pretty substantial $218,398 raised last quarter. Then he found out that his only opponent was leaving the race, meaning that he would be facing the challenge of winning an open seat instead of the more daunting task of unseating an incumbent, and also that he would have a three month and $190,232 head start on the field. Yesterday Jones announced he’d received the endorsement of seven Rockland County (just under half the district) elected officials and party leaders. Jones is the frontrunner for this race, and an imposing one.

  • Assemblymember David Buchwald is in. Buchwald announced his candidacy shortly after the news of Lowey’s retirement broke. He represents the 93rd district, which stretches up the eastern border of the state to northern Westchester County, so it’s only about half in NY-17, but Buchwald lives in White Plains, which is very much inside. Buchwald has been a fairly progressive, if quiet, member of the chamber, but his decision to vote against the omnibus of pro-tenant reforms passed earlier this year, even in a watered down form, stands out on his record for all the wrong reasons.

  • David Carlucci is considering. Fuck this guy. Carlucci is the state senator for most of Rockland County, and one of the few IDC-ers to survive 2018. For those unaware of one of the most infuriating chapters of New York Democratic history, in 2008 Democrats flipped the state senate. There was a leadership battle, and then shortly thereafter the loser and some of his allies jumped ship and started caucusing with the Republicans, letting them continue to run the chamber. They maintained their Democratic registration to keep winning elections, calling themselves the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC), In 2010, governor and huge asshole Andrew Cuomo saw their utility in preventing anything progressive from getting to his desk, and allied himself with the project, signing off on their gerrymander and campaigning for them in the primaries. In 2018, facing a wave of primaries, Cuomo “negotiated” a “deal” where they would come back to the Democratic caucus...after all major legislation was signed, and Republicans would keep the Senate anyway. Most IDCers lost their primaries in 2018, but Carlucci eked out a narrow win. He can fuck off forever.

  • Assemblymember Amy Paulin’s name is being floated. Which, uh, why? Paulin represents AD-88, a district in southern Westchester County, ie NY-16, where she lives. The only part of NY-17 she represents is a few thousand people in and near White Plains. Like Buchwald, her legislative record is mostly okay except for tenant’s rights, including that 2019 bill. (Seriously, only eight Dems voted no on that thing, and now two of them might be running for NY-17). Notably, however, she is the only woman people are seriously talking about in this race, so if she chooses to run, that could mean support from EMILY’s List and other woman-focused groups. However, there’s one big problem in her past: she endorsed Jeff Klein, the accused sex pest who led the IDC, for reelection in 2018. (Thankfully, Klein lost his primary to Alessandra Biaggi, and the IDC is dead.) So that’s a hard pass from us.

  • Assemblymember Tom Abinanti’s name is also being floated. He’s another case of “what, why?”. Abinanti is seriously old to be running for Congress for the first time - he’d be 73 or 74 when he takes office, and the man’s a walking controversy for his anti-vax views, for killing legislation to make the minimum wage apply to disabled employees, and for a general prickliness. Abinanti is a Cuomo antagonist, which we support, but for him that means he’s boxed out from establishment support, while his own terrible record and the presence of Jones in the race means he’s not likely to get much progressive support.

  • Chelsea Clinton is not running.

A name that hasn’t been mentioned but seems eminently possible is Steven Otis. Otis represents AD-91, which is only half in the district, but he lives in NY-17, in the city of Rye (pop. 16,000) which he was mayor of 2002-2010. Another plausible candidate is Thomas Roach, mayor of White Plains (pop. 59,000) since 2011. Roach conveniently isn’t up for re-election until 2021, so this would be a free shot for him.

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