Democrats Out-Raising Republicans in State Legislative Races, Cause For Concern?

RALEIGH – As fundraising numbers for 2018 campaigns get released, a trend is starting to develop that may worry Republicans. At the highest level, the state political parties, Democrats have dwarfed the Republicans’ haul as they get some hefty checks written by local bipartisan mega-donors and out-of-state Leftists. Actually, the Democrats may be surprising even themselves, raising exponentially more in this cycle than the last several cycles.

But the trend seems to hold up downstream as well. In myriad state house and senate races the Democrats are either matching incumbent numbers, or beating them altogether.

Some examples:

Bobby Hanig, the Dare County Commissioner and anti-drilling environmentalist that bested conservative stalwart Beverly Boswell in the NC House 6 Republican primary, is getting creamed by Democrat opponent Tess Judge in money on hand.

Hanig raised a meager $12,000 or so through the first quarter of 2018, while spending about $20,000. He’s in the hole. Judge, however, has raised nearly $35,000.

In the second quarter, Hanig raised about $13,000, versus Judge’s $63,000.

In Lee County, House District 51, incumbent Republican Rep. John Saul was out-raised in the second quarter by his challenger Lisa Mathis by a factor of 10 – $5,000 to $50,000.

Over in House District 36, incumbent Republican and chief house budget writer Nelson Dollar pulled in just under $40,000 for the second quarter of 2018. His challenger, Democrat Julie von Haefen, reported raising over $70,000.

Looking at the state senate races tells a similar story. Incumbent Republican Mike Lee, in Senate District 9 (Wilmington) is coming up short against Democrat challenger and former Wilmington mayor Harper Peterson – $36,000 to $52,000.

In Senate District 1, Republican Bob Steinburg is essentially running as an incumbent for this open seat after serving in the state house. He reported raising a little over $48,000 for the second quarter. The challenging Democrat Cole Phelps reports raising over $74,000 for the same period.

It goes on and on like this – Republican House member John Bradford is losing the fundraising battle in District 98 to Democrat Christy Clark for the year ($23K to $70K); Republican Sen. Jeff Tarte is being edged out by Democrat Natasha Marcus; Republican Rep. Holly Grange is being edged out by challenger Leslie Cohen.

To be sure, raising more money does not equate to getting more votes. Incumbents obviously have a built in advantage to exploit, and Democrats’ campaign ads will still be pushing smear narratives and unpopular policies.

Still, Democrats only needs a net pick up of four seats to break the Republican super-majority in the house, killing the veto-override option so often employed in the last year.

Those Republican incumbents whose record is hard to distinguish from the Left in many policy areas are likely the lowest hanging fruit, especially in districts that are more purple in voter makeup.

Constitutional amendments on the ballot, like voter ID and income tax caps, may draw out more Republican supporters, but one can’t help but think that a more aggressive articulation and execution of government-shrinking conservative policies would have reduced the amount of apparent Republican fatigue showing up in the fundraising numbers.

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