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Democratic Senate candidates smash fundraising records in 2nd quarter despite pandemic

Amy McGrath to run for Mitch McConnell's Senate seat
Amy McGrath to run for Mitch McConnell's Senate seat 01:45

Heading into the summer, Democratic Senate hopefuls are raising record amounts of cash in their bids to unseat Republican Senate incumbents. The massive fundraising hauls are pouring in despite the ongoing economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to Amy McGrath's campaign, the retired fighter pilot raised $17.4 million from April through June in her primary bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. The average donation was $39. This comes just after McGrath eked out a win in the June 23rd primary in a closer than expected race against Charles Booker.  Cook Political Report currently ranks the race as "likely Republican."

While second-quarter numbers have not yet been filed, the Kentucky Senate race is already one of the most expensive Senate races in the 2020 cycle so far. For context, the Texas Senate race was one of the most expensive Senate contests of 2018. In the second quarter of that year, then Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke brought in just over $10 million in his bid against Senator Ted Cruz. McGrath's fundraising number is also more than was raised by multiple presidential candidates during the 2019 fundraising quarters, including the amount raised by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden during the fall quarter. According to Kantar/Campaign Analysis Group tracking, McGrath has spent $15 million on advertising in her race to date.

Meanwhile, in another race ranked "likely Republican," Democratic Senate candidate Jaime Harrison in South Carolina has raised almost $14 million in his bid against Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. While Graham has not yet released his second-quarter fundraising number, Harrison raised nearly double what he raised during the first quarter of the year, when he broke South Carolina fundraising records and outraised the incumbent senator. 

Democratic candidates in more competitive races have continued their run of impressive fundraising since the start of the year as well. In two of the top targeted seats for Democrats, candidates raked in more than $7 million. In Maine, Sara Gideon raised $9 million from April through June, about $2 million more than she raised in the first quarter of 2020. 

At the same time, Cal Cunningham, in North Carolina, pulled in $7.4 million, about $3 million more than he raised in the first quarter in his race against incumbent GOP Senator Thom Tillis. The North Carolina race is shaping up to be the most expensive in terms of advertising so far, with outside groups, party committees and candidates having already spent or reserved more than $106 million for ads leading up to November. 

Democrats are also increasingly eyeing Montana and Iowa as potential pick-up opportunities, and the candidates in those states are bringing in the money to support a contest. Governor Steve Bullock's campaign said he raised $7.7 million in his race against Republican Senator Steve Daines, and businesswoman Theresa Greenfield brought in $6 million, according to her campaign, against Republican Senator Joni Ernst in Iowa. 

In Kansas, Democratic Senate candidate Dr. Barbara Bollier raised $3.7 million. According to her campaign, it's the largest single-quarter filing of any candidate — federal or state — in Kansas history. Bollier is seeking to fill the seat being vacated by outgoing GOP Senator Pat Roberts, who announced he would not seek reelection last year. The Kansas Senate primary election will take place on August 4. 

Even in states like Georgia and Texas that analysts consider as likely to remain Republican, the Democratic candidates are pulling in more cash than previous presidential candidates. In Georgia, Reverend Raphael Warnock's campaign said he raised nearly $3 million in his campaign to challenge Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, and Jon Ossoff reported raising more than $3.4 million in his race against Republican Senator David Perdue. M.J. Hegar in Texas is competing in a runoff next week against State Senator Royce West to take on Republican Senator John Cornyn. Hegar's campaign reports she raised $1.7 million. 

Campaigns for other top-tier Democratic candidates like Mark Kelly in Arizona and John Hickenlooper in Colorado have not yet released their numbers for the latest fundraising quarter but have brought in large cash hauls in the past. 

While Democrats are touting their record-breaking fundraising for the second quarter, the Republicans they're challenging have not yet released totals. Senate candidates must file their second quarter totals with the Federal Election Commission by July 15.

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