Democratic Fundraising for Top-Tier Races Masks Downballot Problems

Democratic Fundraising for Top-Tier Races Masks Downballot Problems

  • August 29, 2020
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DEMOCRATIC FUNDRAISING FOR TOP-TIER RACES has turned Republican-held seats in the House and Senate into battlegrounds. But the party continues to lag badly behind their GOP counterparts in fundraising for downballot races in states that are crucial to the party’s long-term success, especially in a redistricting year. Democratic state legislature candidates were outraised in 15 of 18 target seats in Texas, where they hope to break the GOP’s total control of state government. In Florida, Democrats raised just 30% of what Republicans raised in 23 targeted statehouse races, according to an analysis by Forward Majority, a progressive group focused on state races. “Resources and attention continue to be concentrated on the top of the ticket and don’t trickle down,” said Vicky Hausman, co-founder of the group.

Combined, Florida and Texas account for around 70 congressional seats, and Democrats worry that failure to control at least one lever of the redistricting process—one chamber of the statehouse or the governor’s office—could result in the drawing of maps favorable to the GOP for the next decade. “The Democratic Party is struggling to engage state voters with their radical national message, and the fundraising totals show that,” said Dave Abrams, the deputy executive director of the Republican State Leadership Committee.

One bright spot for Democrats: Candidates in hotly contested races in North Carolina are keeping up with their Republican opponents’ fundraising, a testament to the state party infrastructure built up in recent years by Gov. Roy Cooper, among others.

TENNESSEE REPUBLICAN SENATE PRIMARY became a proxy fight for senators with 2024 ambitions—pitting Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton against Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas. A Cotton-allied super PAC spent around $400,000 to boost the ultimate winner, Ambassador Bill Hagerty, while Paul and Cruz campaigned for the “anti-establishment” surgeon Manny Sethi. A Paul-connected super PAC spent $1.5 million supporting Sethi. Hagerty allies highlighted Sethi’s opposition to President Trumptouting the use of federal troops as a way to quell Black Lives Matter protests and associated unrest, a cause Cotton has championed. The Cotton-allied group ran attack ads in Tennessee painting Sethi as sympathetic to left-wing “radicals.”

Cruz and Paul framed the race as an insurgent-against-establishment contest, arguing that Hagerty was the choice of the “swamp” that “tries to trick voters into choosing their preferred candidate.” Cotton allies are trying to use the contest to show that the senator is winning the battle of ideas within the GOP, positioning him for success in a 2024 presidential primary. “It bodes ill for the libertarian wing of the party,” said Brett O’Donnell, a consultant to Cotton and Hagerty.

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