May 8 is the deadline for the first meaningful campaign finance reports in the 2015 statewide election. This is our first chance to peek into how competitive campaigns have been able to execute on fundraising and generally how and how much they have deployed.
Let’s take them in order of interest.
It’s clear that this Republican primary could shape up to be the most competitive race of the cycle. Incumbent Lynn Fitch is facing local attorney/businessman David McRae. We sounded the warning early in January that Fitch showed pretty anemic fundraising with $59K on hand as of 12/31/14 – a pretty dangerous spot for a statewide incumbent after three years. The question was, could David McRae build a diverse base of financial support among Republican donors? During this period, McRae raised over $250K from about 140 donors and is showing $160K COH. He and his wife have put in a little less than half of the total raised, but that is still an impressive three months for a political newcomer in a way downticket race.
Fitch raised $88K over the same period, but spent $77K during that same period leaving her with $110K COH. A political consultant I spoke with Friday said he thinks “there is blood in the water” on this race. Whether or not that’s true, I think it’s safe to say that this has the potential to be a real race and the most competitive statewide primary heading into August.
Incumbent Democrat Jim Hood is going to get a real challenge from Republican challenger Mike Hurst. Hurst has come out of the gates raising $155K and showing right at $150K COH. For Hood, he’s raised $231K this period and is showing $233 COH. The real thing to watch in this race is whether or not Hurst can show political viability (fundraising) to entice outside groups to come into the race and make independent expenditures to help move the needle. I’d say this report is a good start.
Incumbent Stacey Pickering raised $204K from over 150 sources this period to bring his cash on hand up to $213K. Meanwhile, the political circus that has been surrounding challenger and Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler in Madison seems to have her campaign off to an awkward fundraising start. On her May report, she features 10 donors (herself among them) and is reporting $112K COH, BUT of the $142K she claimed during the period $132K of that came from her personally and another $5,000 came from a single donor in Texas. That’s not exactly the prototypical financial report of someone seriously looking to build a wide base of support and unseat an incumbent.
Democratic challenger Joce Pritchett produced likely the most garbled campaign finance report I’ve ever seen . It had an enormous volume of small dollar in-kind contributions and two large in-kind contributions (both for airfare/charter totaling about $8,000). With the $10,000 she has committed, it looks as if she’s raised another $30K or so in contributions with the lion’s share of that coming from ActBlue PAC in several tranches. Bottom line – $46K COH.
Insurance Commissioner’s Race
Incumbent Republican Mike Chaney raised $116K this period and is showing $338K COH. His challenger John Mosley lagged substantially behind with only $46K raised and $20K COH. Of the $46K he raised, $33K came from his own pocket. One interesting revelation from Mosley’s report is that he has hired Haley Winningham, a veteran of the McDaniel recount circus. We will see how that works out for Mosley.
Lt. Governor’s Race
The Tate Reeves’ fundraising juggernaut continues. He raised $276K this period and is now showing $2.42 million COH. His primary challenger, Mobile school teacher Alisha McElhenney, has yet to file her report as of this writing. We will update that as soon as it is available.
Tim Johnson after his switch to the Democratic party seems to be falling right in line with anemic fundraising. He may potentially be a better Democrat than folks give him credit for. He raised $41K this period and is showing $28K COH. Notably $25K of his $41K raised came from himself (as a loan) and another $10K came from two trial lawyers. Johnson still has to get past Jalani Barr, who has yet to file a report as of this writing. Barr is a community activist from the Mississippi Delta, and I’d give him even odds of beating Johnson in a primary at this point.
As one would expect, Governor Phil Bryant is making the Governor’s race not very interesting as he rolls along as well with a COH war chest of $2.64 million after raising $485K this period.
Trial lawyer Vicki Slater actually had a surprisingly decent report. She raised $104K with only $10K coming from her own pocket and is showing $62K COH. I thought it would be a little less. Notably (and not particularly surprisingly), about 90% of her contributors were fellow attorneys.
Speaker Philip Gunn also has done well and is showing $271K COH.
With Bryant, Reeves and Hosemann and Hyde-Smith essentially having only token opposition and Chaney likely to free up after the primary, there is the real opportunity for helping legislative candidates as well as getting involved in the AG’s race. All of the above listed folks would have their own reason for getting involved, but cash is the key component to getting that done.
We’ll be watching.