Pawlenty leads in governor’s race fundraising

Former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty is leading the money chase for Minnesota governor, sitting on a hefty $1.3 million heading into a contested primary and the November election.

Pawlenty’s haul, reported in the latest round of campaign finance deadlines that cover money raised and spent this year through May 31, far exceeded the cash on hand of his Republican-endorsed primary challenger, Jeff Johnson, who reported raising $169,000 this year with $186,000 in the bank. Johnson and Pawlenty are facing each other in an Aug. 14 Republican primary.

In a statement, Pawlenty said his campaign raised more than $1.7 million from roughly 3,500 donors between early March and the end of May to build up his campaign infrastructure. Pawlenty got into the race later than Johnson and did not seek the party’s endorsement in early June.

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"Our campaign is well-positioned to take our message to every corner of Minnesota," Pawlenty said. "The help provided by our supporters, volunteers, and donors in just three months has been simply remarkable."

On the DFL-side of the race, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz reported raising $888,000 this year with $685,000 in the bank, while his DFL-endorsed opponent, state Rep. Erin Murphy, reported raising $259,000 with $85,000 in cash on hand. Attorney General Lori Swanson, who entered the DFL race for governor after the reporting deadline, was not included in this round of reports, but Swanson is already raising money and was the first to release a television ad this week.

"Everywhere we go, we feel the momentum building,” Walz said in a statement about his campaign finance report. “It’s clear: Minnesotans are joining our movement to unite this great state.”

With their endorsements, Murphy and Johnson will be able to tap into the resources of their respective political parties, including volunteer support and voter lists. But the Republican Party of Minnesota has just $69,000 on hand in its latest state report and $45,000 in its federal report. The DFL Party of Minnesota had roughly $1 million in the bank, according to its state report, and $459,000 in its federal account. 

In a statement, Murphy said her team made a "considerable investment" ahead of the June DFL endorsing convention and it "paid off."

"We were outspent nearly 2-1, and still won the endorsement. The infrastructure we have already invested in, along with our ability to partner with the DFL, has positioned us to create an unmatched voter mobilization program,” said James Haggar, Murphy's campaign manager. “Since the convention we have seen a significant uptick in donations from both small and large donors that will make June our largest fundraising month to date, helping us prepare for a competitive primary and general election."

The governor's office is wide open next year, with two-term DFL Gov. Mark Dayton stepping down. There's a lot at stake for both parties: Republicans haven't held the governor's office since 2010, and Democrats are desperate to hang on to that lever of power with Republicans currently in control of the House and Senate. Both parties have faced contested primaries in recent elections, but it's rare to have both parties with competitive races in the same year.

While the candidates and parties use their resources to prevail in a primary, some third-party groups are raising and spending money with November in mind. Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a DFL-aligned outside spending group, has raised $1.7 million since January and already spent more than $400,000 of that total on online advertisements targeting Pawlenty.

Editor's note: A previous version of this post quoted ABM saying Pawlenty received $15,000 from Financial Services Roundtable, but the donations came from individual contributions.