Ready, set, spend? Campaign accounts bulging as races heat up

People speak during a large rally outside.
Gov. Tim Walz addresses a crowd during an abortion rights march and protest at the Minnesota State Capitol on July 17.
Tim Evans for MPR News

When it comes to campaign fundraising, what comes in will certainly go back out — through ads, rallies, lawn signs and door-to-door canvassing.

And that puts DFL Gov. Tim Walz in a commanding financial position in his reelection bid. Through July 18, Walz has built up a nearly nine-time cash advantage over his Republican challenger Scott Jensen. 

The $4.98 million Walz has banked will give him more latitude than Jensen has with the $581,000 he had saved up.

But there are more variables to consider: Walz has already locked in millions of dollars of TV advertising between now and the Nov. 8 election that hasn’t been deducted yet from his totals. He went up on air last week and is expected to run commercials for the duration.

A man smiles and shakes someone's hand
Republican gubernatorial candidate Dr. Scott Jensen greets supporters at Kaposia Park in South St. Paul on July 11.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

And if the race remains competitive, outside groups are expected to spend heavily to support their preferred candidate and tear down the opponent.

Jensen hasn’t reserved any TV time yet but listed around $300,000 in radio, billboard and newspaper ad spending this summer.

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DFL incumbents also had sizable cash advantages in the attorney general and secretary of state races where Keith Ellison and Steve Simon are after new terms.

Ellison’s closest opponent, the GOP endorsed Jim Schultz, kept pace with the incumbent in the most recent fundraising period.

Schultz must first get by a primary challenge from 2018 Republican nominee Doug Wardlow, who trails the others in fundraising and available money.

Simon raised more than three times what Republican Secretary of State candidate Kim Crockett did and has a clear edge in banked dollars — $679,000 to $77,000.

Republican Ryan Wilson, who is the challenger in the state auditor’s race, is the only member of his party’s ticket to fare better than the DFL incumbent. Wilson has about $91,000 in reserve compared to $32,000 for Auditor Julie Blaha. But Wilson has built up that advantage partly by paying for many campaign services out of his own pocket.

The cash battles in the race for legislative control favor the present majorities.

The House DFL caucus is sitting on nearly $2.3 million as it defends a narrow majority; the House GOP has $792,000. The Republican Senate caucus had $1.8 million ready to use as it tries to repel a DFL takeover effort; the Senate DFL had about $958,000.

Many candidates raised a lot, with more DFLers than Republicans in the prime financial position in key races.

But outside groups will loom large and most have yet to touch their six- or seven-figure stashes that can quickly swamp what the candidates are able to muster in the targeted races.