Pawlenty, Walz lead governor’s race in fundraising

With two weeks to go before the Minnesota primary election, former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty has raised the most money in the race for governor and has $1 million left to spend.

Pawlenty has raised $2.1 million in his bid to return to the governor’s office, according the most recent round of fundraising reports. That’s far ahead of his Republican-endorsed primary opponent, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who reported raising $306,000 this year and had $193,000 left to spend.

The pre-primary campaign finance reports, posted Tuesday, are the last glimpse at candidate, party and outside groups' finances before the August 14 primary election. There are plenty of competitive races on the ballot, including a five-way DFL primary for attorney general and several crowded congressional primaries, but the open-race for governor is attracting the most attention. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is stepping down after two terms.

On the Democratic side of the race, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz is leading other candidates in a three-way primary, raising nearly $1.3 million this year with $500,000 left to spend. DFL-endorsed state Rep. Erin Murphy raised $585,000 in 2018 and has nearly $234,000 still in the bank. 

Attorney General Lori Swanson, the last candidate to enter the race in June, reported her first fundraising numbers, bringing in more than $606,000 since then and spending most of that: She has $135,000 left in the bank, the least of any of the candidates in the race. Much of her money has been spent airing two television ads.

In in a string of statements Tuesday morning, the candidates who managed to raise the most money said the numbers show their message is “resonating” across the state.

“Our campaign is running strong across the entire state and the extensive scope of our grassroots supporters – with donors from each of Minnesota’s 87 counties – shows that our message is resonating broadly," Pawlenty said in a statement.

“Whether it’s a dairy farmer in Todd County, a teacher in Minneapolis, or a bus driver in Hugo, Minnesotans from all walks of life are joining our campaign to unite this great state,” Walz said in response to his numbers.

Murphy and Johnson had the lowest fundraising totals, but they also carry the endorsement from their respective political parties, which comes with some financial and infrastructure support for their campaign. The state DFL Party has raised $3.35 million so far this year, according to its state report, and they’ve used some of that to help fund online campaigns, mailers and a new television ad on behalf of Murphy. The party has $585,000 left in the bank. The Republican Party of Minnesota is far behind the DFL in fundraising, reporting $371,000 raised so far this year and $158,708 in the bank.

"We are running a truly grassroots campaign, powered by people, small contributions, and the hard work and enthusiasm of thousands of Minnesotans," Murphy said in a statement. "I'm grateful to everyone that pitched in, whether they showed up on the report or they contribute their time on the phones or doors."

The entire 134-seat Minnesota House is also on the ballot this fall, as Democrats try to win back the majority in the chamber. They’ve raised $1.5 million this year in their effort and have $1.2 million in the bank. “Minnesotans are seeking change this election, and our candidates are working hard to earn their votes in November,” DFL House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman said in a statement.

House Republicans, who hold a 77-seat majority, have raised $869,000 this year and have nearly $1.1 million left to spend.

In the DFL attorney general primary, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison is vastly out-raising the other candidates in the field, pulling in nearly $213,000 this year and with nearly $106,000 still in the bank. Former Ramsey County Attorney Tom Foley was the closest behind Ellison in the latest round of reports, with $62,000 raised and nearly $33,000 in the bank. Republican Attorney General candidate Doug Wardlow reported raising nearly $115,000 this year.

But candidates and the political parties are just a small snapshot of campaign spending in the state this year, after the Citizens United ruling opened elections up to unfettered fundraising and spending in elections.

Alliance for a Better Minnesota, one of the main Democrat-aligned political groups, reported raising nearly $4.2 million so far this year and have roughly $756,000 in the bank. The group has been training its fire on Pawlenty, already spending $2 million to attack him online and in a recent television ad. The Democratic Governor’s Association has stockpiled nearly $5.3 million for the race, according to campaign finance reports, and their Republican counterpart has reserved more than $2 million in ads in Minnesota this fall. 

This post will be updated throughout the day as more reports are made public.

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