Candidates for the 2nd Congressional District will report fundraising totals in less than a week, a moment that will show voters – and donors – which candidates have the resources to make a serious run at a hotly contested seat.
On the Democratic ticket, Sens. Emily Cain and Troy Jackson are new to the fundraising world, as their political ambitions have historically received financial support from taxpayers – courtesy of the Maine Clean Elections Act. In the federal election, these Democratic state senators won’t have a law on the books compelling taxpayers to finance them, so they’ll have to learn how to beg for money. Both candidates have hired treasurers or finance directors with experience working with Equality Maine and Rep. Chellie Pingree. So both will be competing for support from the LGBT community and from Pingree’s billionaire husband, S. Donald Sussman.
Alden Smith, previously unknown in Maine political circles, is the Democratic wild card. Judging by the look of his campaign website, he has know-how and resources. And, from the looks of his resume, he will be a formidable opponent. As for fundraising, Smith’s endorsement page list no one and the most recent press release says he spent two weeks of August in Korea deterring communist aggression. While it’s encouraging to know that at least one Democrat thinks communism is bad, it’s tough to raise money when you hanging out with your Korean friends in Daegu.
While Smith will probably raise less than Jackson and Cain, the top Democratic fundraiser will likely be whoever successfully courts outgoing Rep. Mike Michaud’s old donors: the labor unions. Michaud’s 2012 campaign — like his earlier campaigns — was financed in large part by transportation unions ($77,500), government worker unions ($62,250), industrial unions ($59,500) and building trade unions ($50,000). While Jackson has strong ties with Maine’s unions and has always done their bidding in the legislature, union bosses may put their support behind Cain if they believe she is the more viable candidate. Precisely where the union money falls will go a long ways toward determining which Democrat runs the strongest primary campaign.
The three declared Republican candidates – Kevin Raye, Bruce Poliquin, and Blaine Richardson – all have experience raising campaign cash, and they will need every dime to take on the formidable Democratic machine that will inevitably coalesce behind whichever Democrat wins the nomination.
Raye’s advantage lies in having twice run in the 2nd C.D., meaning his old donors are probably still on speed dial. In 2012, he raised $677,738 and received support from House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) Freedom Project and many private sector businesses, including Marden’s. In this cycle, a seasoned campaign veteran like Raye can be expected to raise $150,000 or more out of the starting gate.
Richardson will have the biggest fundraising disadvantage. When he challenged Raye for the GOP nomination last cycle, he raised less than $20,000 and provided a small amount himself. A source close to Richardson’s campaign said they expect to come in third place for fundraising, but are seeing positive results from their online donations and the bills are getting paid. Richardson’s early total will probably be in the neighborhood of $10,000.
Poliquin will be the most well financed candidate on the Republican ticket. In his 2012 Senate campaign, Poliquin raised more than $167,000 and added another $150,000 from his own checkbook. With the ability to raise money and his own money to spend, Poliquin’s campaign will be strong. Expect his total to be in the $125,000 range, plus whatever he chips in.
The full disclosures will be submitted on Oct. 16 and typically become available to the public within a few days; however, with government websites being taken down left and right by the Obama Administration, it could take weeks.
So we’ll have to wait to see just how much each candidate has raised at this early point in their campaigns. But there is a hint in the registration forms that signals a big win for one GOP candidate.
Timothy W. Varney, owner of Varney Agency, Inc., is registered as treasurer for Poliquin for Congress.
This is big deal for two reasons.
First, the Varney family is a major source of conservative donations. They have given liberally to the Maine Republican Party, Republican state legislators and national Republican candidates. Their support grows Poliquin’s fundraising network and sends a strong signal to other would-be donors. An ask is simply more credible when it comes from someone who has also made a donation.
Second, Varney is a former supporter of Raye. In 2012, he gave Raye $2500, the maximum allowed under law, as did several members of the Varney family. All told, the Varney family contributed $7,500 to Raye’s campaign. Varney switching sides could reflect a more general shift of big Republican and conservative donors. If it does, Raye could be in trouble.
Maine Wire Reporter