Dems lead AZGOP in 2020 election fundraising, but Ward improves on rough start

By: - October 16, 2019 10:31 am

Illustration by iStockphoto / Getty Images

The Arizona Democratic Party is substantially outpacing its Republican rivals in fundraising so far in the 2020 election cycle, and the AZGOP has raised less money than in most recent election cycles. 

However, there’s at least one silver lining for the Arizona Republican Party as Chairwoman Kelli Ward improved on her slow start from earlier in the year and has out-raised her immediate predecessor who ran the party during the 2018 election. 

Through the end of September, Arizona Democratic Party Chairwoman Felecia Rotellini has raised $641,000 into the party’s state-level campaign account. That number was boosted by a haul of $348,000 during the third quarter, compared to just $81,000 for the AZGOP.

The parties also raise money for federal races in federal campaign committees. On the federal side, the Democrats raised more than $1.1 million through the end of August. The party has not yet submitted its monthly report for September. 

Arizona Democratic Party spokesman Matt Grodsky said the party feels good about its fundraising, and said the AZGOP is “substantially underperforming.”

“We only anticipate that going up once we actually transition into an election year,” Grodsky said of the Democrats’ fundraising numbers. “We’re happy with what we’re seeing.”

Though the AZGOP trails the Democrats, Ward’s improved fundraising comes after a rough start that saw her come under fire for meager fundraising in the first quarter of 2019.

Through the end of September, Ward had raised nearly $393,000 into the Arizona Republican Party’s state-level account and $877,000 into its federal account. At the same point in 2018 election cycle under then-Chairman Jonathan Lines, the AZGOP had raised $311,000 at the state level and $693,000 federally.

Thanks to an infusion of cash from the Republican National Committee, the AZGOP’s federal campaign account raised $380,000 in September. 

Both parties’ federal committees bring in substantial sums from their respective national parties, as well as from transfers from their state-level committees. Because those transfers can come at various points in an election cycle, making apples-to-apples comparisons of total fundraising numbers in different election cycles can be misleading.

When it comes to individual contributions, which aren’t reliant on transfers from national parties or state committees, Ward has also surpassed the party’s 2017 numbers. Since taking over the party in late January, the AZGOP federal committee has raised $337,000 from individuals, compared to $244,000 in individual contributions during the same point two years ago when the party was led by Jonathan Lines.

But though Ward has improved on her predecessor’s fundraising performance, she hasn’t restored the AZGOP’s fundraising prowess to the levels it saw in 2016 and other previous election cycles. 

At this point in the 2016 election cycle, the AZGOP had raised nearly $1.3 million in its federal account under then-Chairman Robert Graham, including $714,000 from individuals. Individual contributors had also given more to the party’s federal committee through three quarters in almost every election cycle going back to 2003.

A spokesman for the AZGOP did not return a message from Arizona Mirror

State party fundraising may not be an issue for the Republicans, regardless of whether the Democrats outperform them. 

Because Arizona will be a target state in both the presidential campaign and next year’s race for U.S. Senate, there will be no shortage of money coming in from outside, said Brian Murray, a Republican campaign consultant who once served as the AZGOP’s executive director. The only danger would be if President Donald Trump and Sen. Martha McSally had no chance in Arizona or had uncompetitive races they didn’t have to worry about, he said.

Murray said the Trump campaign will likely have a robust get-out-the-vote campaign backed by possibly hundreds of staffers and a plethora of volunteers, which will probably be run through the AZGOP. And as far as fundraising goes, super PACs give donors plenty of other options to contribute to the Republican cause.

“Of course, we’d like her to raise as much money as possible. But at the end of the day, considering the resources and the cavalry is on its way, I’m not that worried,” Murray said.

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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.”