Sanders leads AZ Dem fundraising, but state yields little campaign cash

By: - August 7, 2019 4:26 pm

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders at a campaign event in Phoenix in July 2015. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Democratic presidential hopefuls’ fundraising in Arizona largely mirrors their nationwide success so far, though there hasn’t been much money to be found in the Grand Canyon State. 

Arizonans contributed a total of nearly $650,000 to Democratic presidential candidates through June 30, when the second reporting period of the year ended, according to Federal Election Commission Data. 

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who leads the extensive field of candidates with more than $46 million raised nationally, tops the list in Arizona. The independent Vermont senator has raised about $131,000 here.

Sanders is also the runaway leader in the number of contributions he’s received from Arizonans with 2,215, more than twice as many as Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and five times as many California U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris. (Some individuals gave multiple times.) Sanders became known during his unsuccessful 2016 campaign for raising large numbers of small-dollar donations, and his 2020 bid is no different. His average contribution from Arizona was just over $59, second only to Julian Castro, whose average is just under that amount. 

Second in both the Arizona and national fundraising rankings is South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has raised $118,000 in the state. Buttigieg has raised about $32 million nationwide. 

Warren has raised $81,000 of her $35.6 million in Arizona. Former Vice President Joe Biden has raised about $72,000 here, while Harris has raised nearly $56,000 in the state. Beto O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, has raised nearly $42,000 in Arizona, while Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar raised nearly $31,000 here through the end of the second quarter of 2019. 

Author and activist Marianne Williamson, who has only raised $3 million nationally, has raised nearly $23,000 here. 

Williamson has raised the largest percentage of her total war chest from Arizona, pulling in about three-quarters of a percent of her money from the state. No other candidate has raised even half of 1 percent from Arizona, with Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and former Housing and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro coming the closest. Castro has raised nearly $18,000 here, while Bullock has raised a paltry $9,440. 

Arizona hasn’t traditionally been fertile fundraising ground for presidential campaigns, and the 2020 race has been no exception. Though Arizona is the 14th most populous state, with more than 7 million people, it has long punched below its weight when it comes to fundraising. 

Longtime Democratic campaign operative David Waid said Arizona has historically been a good place for small-dollar fundraising, and he wasn’t surprised by Sanders and Warren’s success here. Arizona has major Democratic donors, he said, but they often tend to focus more on who’s winning the race. 

Waid attributed Arizona’s low fundraising numbers to the number of candidates in the race, and said the big contributors are likely waiting to see who makes the cut once the Democratic field is winnowed down.

Furthermore, Waid said, Arizona’s major donor community “is not as engaged as you see in other states,” at least not on the Democratic side. 

Waid noted that the biggest sources of campaign cash are New York and California, along with parts of Florida and big cities like Chicago. Colorado Democrats organized their major contributors, people who give more than $1 million in a year, more than a decade ago, and that effort has borne fruit, he said. 

“That’s not something that you have not seen in Arizona at this point,” he said.

Colorado, which is less populous than Arizona but is a swing state where Democrats have largely taken control over the past decade, gave about $3.8 million to Democratic presidential candidates this year. 

Mario Diaz, a lobbyist and Democratic political consultant, said many Arizona Democrats may be waiting to see who pulls ahead in the crowded primary field. And he said the relative lack of contributions in Arizona may be due to the lack of attention that Democratic candidates are paying the state at this stage in the race. 

Democratic candidates have paid little mind to Arizona so far, and few have visited the state. Warren visited Tempe for a campaign rally on Aug. 1, while Castro held a town hall, also in Tempe, on June 13. 

“Hopefully that changes with more visits from candidates,” Diaz said of Arizona’s low fundraising numbers. 

With a relatively late primary election that usually comes after the nominations have been largely decided, Arizona rarely has any influence in the outcome of the Democratic and Republican contests. 

In 2020, Arizona’s presidential primary election will be on March 17. At least 26 states, as well as Puerto Rico, will hold their primaries before Arizona Democrats cast their ballots, which will be on the same day as the Florida and Illinois primaries. 

Despite the low fundraising totals thus far from the Grand Canyon State, there’s money to be had in Arizona. Diaz noted that his ZIP code in north Scottsdale gave more money to Donald Trump in 2016 than any other ZIP code in the United States. 

Trump, meanwhile, has raised $814,000 in Arizona for his re-election campaign in the first half of the year, and has raised nearly $1.5 million here since he took office in January 2017. Trump reported raising nearly $57 million through June 30.

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Jeremy Duda previously served as the Mirror's associate Editor. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”