Democratic victories in 2018 were funded by an unprecedented wave of small-dollar online giving dubbed the “Green Wave.” At the start of the 2020 election cycle, some Democratic operatives focused on House and Senate races feared an all-consuming presidential primary contest would slow the party’s financial momentum.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $6.5 million in September, the group told HuffPost. It now has $18 million on hand as the party tries to win back the Senate in 2020.
“The enthusiasm for the Democratic candidates running in these battleground states continues to grow as voters across the country see just how important the Senate is in 2020,” the DSCC’s chair, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), said in a statement. “We’re thrilled for the grassroots support and grateful to those who have helped us break records this quarter.”
That’s better than the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s $5 million haul in September.
The DSCC’s recent financial advantage, combined with several Democratic challengers outraising their Republican incumbent opponents, shows Democratic donors are still willing to fund down-ballot candidates even as money flows to presidential candidates like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who combined to raise nearly $50 million in the third quarter.
In Senate races, Democrat Mark Kelly, a former astronaut turned gun control advocate, raised a whopping $5.5 million in the last three months. His opponent, Arizona GOP Sen. Martha McSally, raised $3 million.
In Maine, House Speaker Sara Gideon raised $3.2 million for her race against GOP Sen. Susan Collins. Collins has yet to report her fundraising, though Tuesday is the final day for candidates to report how much they raised and spent between July 1 and the end of September.
Even in Iowa, where the DSCC-endorsed candidate, businesswoman Theresa Greenfield, raised just $1.1 million, it was enough to top Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, who raised just under $1 million.
In North Carolina and Colorado, Democrats nearly matched Republican incumbents. Cal Cunningham, the establishment favorite in North Carolina, raised $1 million to GOP Sen. Thom Tillis’ $1.2 million. And in Colorado, former Gov. John Hickenlooper raised $2.1 million while Republican Sen. Cory Gardner raised $2.5 million.
Republicans have a 53-47 advantage in the Senate, and are hoping to win the seat of Alabama Democrat Doug Jones in 2020. If Republicans succeed, Democrats will need to defeat four Republican incumbents and win the presidency in order to seize control of Congress’ upper chamber. Operatives in both parties agree Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, Arizona and Iowa are the party’s best chances for victory.
The Democratic Party’s biggest fundraiser in Senate races, former fighter pilot Amy McGrath, brought in more than $10 million for her race against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who raised $2.3 million. But McGrath is considered a long shot to defeat McConnell.
The news is not entirely good for Democrats: The DSCC still has a significant amount of debt from the last election cycle, while the NRSC has managed to eliminate its own and has outraised the DSCC over the course of 2019. And even if Democrats are bringing in more money than Republicans in the third quarter, candidates likes Gardner and Ernst still have significant advantages in cash on hand.
And one Republican candidate ― businessman and veteran John James ― was able to outraise a Democratic incumbent, Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, by a $3 million to $2.5 million margin.