Open Secrets: Huge Q1 fundraising hauls point to expensive 2022 races

Incumbent lawmakers and hopeful challengers are gearing up for the 2022 midterms, just three months after members of the 117th Congress were sworn in. The midterm elections will be fiercely competitive as Democrats look to exploit GOP retirements and expand their narrow majorities in the House and Senate. 

Early fundraising numbers signal a fiercely competitive campaign season on the horizon, albeit distant. The deadline for campaigns to disclose their first quarter contribution totals doesn’t arrive until April 15. Some candidates opted to voluntarily disclose their fundraising sums, a tactic often used to demonstrate that momentum is already building behind their campaigns. 

In Pennsylvania, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) is dominating the fundraising field, raking in a whopping $3.9 million since announcing his campaign for Senate in early February. The campaign said more than 99 percent of Fetterman’s donations came from small-dollar donors giving less than $200 each. It is somewhat unusual for a candidate to raise so much so early on in the election cycle. In 2019, Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) made headlines after a first quarter disclosure report showed that the former astronaut raised $4 million. He went on to be one of the top Senate fundraisers in the 2020 cycle, which broke spending records.  

Fetterman will vie for the Democratic nomination to replace current Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who plans to retire at the end of his current term. Toomey is one of several moderate Republican lawmakers who announced early this year that they will not seek re-election. 

In Ohio, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) is eyeing one such Senate seat, currently occupied by retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R). Though he hasn’t formally announced his candidacy for the seat, Ryan has taken in more donations than ever before after publicly weighing a Senate run. Currently, Ryan has $1 million in the bank after grossing $1.2 million in contributions. Of that sum, almost 90 percent came from small-dollar individual donations. Ryan rose to national prominence when he ran a brief presidential campaign in the 2020 Democratic primary. He also mounted an unsuccessful challenge against Rep. Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House in 2020. 

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), who will seek the Republican nomination for Portman’s seat, pulled ahead of Ryan, reporting a fundraising total of $1.4 million so far. 

Those impressive war chests may already be deterring potential opponents. In Pennsylvania, Rep. Brendan Boyle (D) announced that he would not run for Toomey’s seat one day after Fetterman released his fundraising numbers. Amy Acton, former director of the Ohio Department of Health, announced Tuesday that she would not run for Portman’s seat just months after announcing her interest. The 314 Action Fund, a liberal hybrid PAC, pledged in late March to spend $5 million supporting Acton during a primary campaign. 

Impressive fundraising totals aren’t limited to candidates in purple states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio. In deep blue California, freshman Sen. Alex Padilla (D) has raised an impressive $2.6 million since he stepped up to fill the seat vacated by Vice President Kamala Harris. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who has hinted that he may weigh a primary challenge against Padilla in 2022, has raked in $1.5 million according to Politico. That’s almost half of Khanna’s total fundraising for the entire 2020 cycle. 

Some GOP lawmakers who defended former President Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 attack on the capitol may pay the price at the ballot box. Wisconsinites have soured on Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) after he parroted Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of massive fraud in the November election. According to a recent Morning Consult poll, Wisconsin Republicans’ disapproval of Johnson has jumped 14 percentage points since Nov. 3, though a majority of Republicans still support him. 

Johnson has not announced whether he plans to run for reelection in 2022. Either way, Alex Lasry, senior vice president of the Milwaukee Bucks NBA team, plans to run for Johnson’s seat as a Democrat. So far, Lasry has raised $1 million. 

Divisions over former President Donald Trump’s legacy are animating fundraising efforts for House Republicans too. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) has raised $1.1 million for his Country First PAC, which was founded in February to encourage Republicans to vote for impeachment. One of the 10 GOP members of Congress who voted for impeachment, Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), has reportedly accumulated “north of” $500,000 for his reelection campaign.

On the other hand, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has galvanized the Trump wing of the party, taking in a staggering $3.2 million since the start of the year, according to Politico. That’s already over a half a million more than her entire 2020 fundraising total. Greene is a former proponent of the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy and met with the former president at Mar-a-lago just last week. Donations — mostly totally under $200 each — have flowed into Greene’s war chest since she was removed from her committee assignments. 

Colorado state Sen. Kerry Donovan (D) is hoping to capitalize on recent controversies surrounding gun-toting freshman Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) to flip the seat, which has traditionally been a GOP stronghold. Boebert made headlines in March when she sent an anti-gun control fundraising email just two hours after a gunman killed 10 people in a supermarket in Boebert’s home state. Boebert has raised $700,000, according to her campaign website, and Donovan raised $614,000 in just 55 days this spring.

Currently, House Democrats control only seven more seats than Republicans. Both parties will fight tooth and nail to win in swing districts. Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) has taken in $959,000 toward his 2022 campaign to defend his west New Jersey district, which is expected to be a critical battleground for Democrats in 2022. Kim was one of only seven Democratic representatives to win in a district that also voted for Trump in 2020.

On the GOP side, freshman Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) has raised $570,000 to defend her seat, which she flipped from blue to red in 2020. Hinson’s district is of particular interest for party leaders because it favored former President Barack Obama in 2012 but then swung for Trump in 2016. Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.) is poised to defend his seat in another swing district that voted for Obama in 2012 but chose Trump in 2016. In 2020, President Joe Biden won the district by just over 1 percent. Delgado raised more than $1 million in the first quarter.

The original article and video coverage can be found on the Open Secrets website here.