Walz keeps money edge as campaigns, groups stock up

A man on a stage smiles as people applaud him
Gov. Tim Walz is endorsed for reelection at the DFL state convention in Rochester on May 20, 2022.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

Updated at 1:50 p.m.

DFL Gov. Tim Walz is in a commanding financial position as he heads into his likely matchup with Republican Scott Jensen, a resource advantage the incumbent might have to lean on heavily in a year where his party faces political headwinds.

New campaign finance reports released Wednesday show that Walz has raised almost $1.8 million since January. Jensen, a former state senator, collected $472,000 in the same time period and had to use a decent amount to win the GOP endorsement at last month’s party convention.

In touting the Walz figures, campaign manager Nichole Johnson said the incumbent “will have the resources we need to compete in every corner of the state and to highlight the Walz-Flanagan vision for moving Minnesota forward on education, public safety and economic opportunity.”

Jensen said he isn’t deterred by his financial disadvantage.

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“Because of Governor Walz and President Biden, every Minnesotan needs to figure out how to stretch their dollars further, and this campaign will be no different,” Jensen said. “We will make one dollar go further than Tim Walz and his DFL machine can do with 10 dollars.”  

Walz entered June with just shy of $4.5 million in the bank, although that figure doesn’t reflect a substantial purchase of TV ad time that starts in September. Jensen had about $663,000 in reserve.

A woman and a man near the Capitol
Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan spoke with reporters after they filed paperwork to run for reelection on May 26, 2022.
Brian Bakst | MPR News

Walz’s spending shows he’s ramping up on voter outreach and staffing, which is reflected in rising costs of his payroll and health insurance expenses.

Jensen has incurred costs from traveling the state as well as waging a convention contest against several other Republicans, who have since ended their campaigns. Jensen spent at least $100,000 at the Rochester convention for supplies, signs, video presentations and delegate hospitality. 

His campaign has also had two other big costs this year: it put $66,000 into a launch event for his lieutenant governor pick, Matt Birk, and spent $65,000 on copies of Jensen’s book to give to campaign donors.

Two men shake hands.
Matt Birk and Scott Jensen shake hands at an event in March where Jensen named Birk as his running mate. The event cost Jensen's campaign $66,000.
Brian Bakst | MPR News

Jensen is in line for a six-figure campaign bump later this summer because he entered a public subsidy program in exchange for agreeing to a campaign spending limit. Walz so far has not made that pledge, so some of the subsidy that would have gone to Walz could go to Jensen and other major party hopefuls.

There are four candidates from other parties on the fall ballot, too, but none has shown much campaign fundraising competitiveness so far.

Walz’s DFL Party is also in far better financial shape than the state Republican Party, with the available cash disparity in their respective state accounts at $2.6 million to $300,000.

Outside groups can play big roles and have fewer fundraising restrictions. But so far there hasn’t been a large push on either side.

Scrott Jensen wins GOP endorsement
GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen, left, takes the stage with running mate Matt Birk, Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Rochester, Minn., at the second day of the Minnesota Republicans state convention.
Glen Stubbe | Star Tribune

Philanthropist Alida Messinger, who is one of Minnesota’s biggest-ever donors, has contributed more than $1 million this year to Democratic groups and party units. Publisher Vance Opperman had $270,000 committed to DFL efforts.

For Republicans, broadcasting executive Stanley Hubbard led the way with $100,000 in donations, much of it to the campaign arm of state Senate Republicans. Retired Target CEO Robert Ulrich was in for $65,000 to GOP causes.

Down the ballot, Democrats have the edge in money for two of the other three statewide offices.

In the attorney general’s race, DFL incumbent Keith Ellison entered June with $505,000 in the bank. That was more than two Republicans trying to unseat him: GOP endorsed candidate Jim Schultz had $111,000 at the ready and rival Doug Wardlow had about $36,000, although both of them have loaned their campaigns considerable amounts.

For the secretary of state’s contest, DFL incumbent Steve Simon was sitting on $558,000 while Republican-endorsed challenger Kim Crockett had $56,000 left to spend at the end of May.

The auditor’s race was different though. Republican-endorsed candidate Ryan Wilson had about $51,000 banked compared with about $23,000 for DFL incumbent Julie Blaha.

The money was also following the majority party caucuses in the Legislature.

Senate Republicans, who are defending the majority they first won in 2016, had $1.6 million stockpiled. The Senate DFL caucus had about half that.

In the House, DFLers are working to maintain a majority they have had since the 2018 election. They had $1.13 million available to about $650,000 for House Republicans.

Legislative candidates were not required to submit reports in this round, and many groups play in competitive races. Some swing districts could attract $1 million to $2 million in overall spending.