Campaign finance reports reflect competitive federal races

By: - October 18, 2022 5:23 pm

Fundraising reflects the tight competition in many of Iowa's races for U.S. House and Senate. (Photo by Getty Images)

Fundraising totals are ticking up for candidates in the most competitive of Iowa’s congressional races this year as incumbents like Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne seek reelection.

Grassley’s challenger Mike Franken, a retired Navy admiral, has raised more than twice as much money as the senator during the third quarter this year, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Grassley, 89, raised almost $1.7 million in the reporting period from July 1 to Sept. 30, while Franken raised nearly $3.6 million.

The Democrat also surpassed Grassley in fundraising for the overall election cycle. Franken, 64, has raised roughly $8.2 million to date according to FEC reports, while Grassley has raised about $7.9 million.

Franken spent roughly $1.4 million more than Grassley in the reporting period, with the Democrat spending $3.3 million to Grassley’s nearly $2 million. But in overall spending, the candidates are close: Franken has spent about $6.8 million this campaign season, while Grassley has spent about $6.7 million.

The longtime Republican senator still holds a lead in cash on hand at $3.9 million, while Franken reported $1.3 million in campaign funds. Grassley’s campaign said that the difference in cash on hand – the incumbent holds nearly three times more in his war chest as his opponent has – proves he remains in a strong position heading into the election.

Grassley’s campaign communications director Michaela Sundermann said the fundraising totals show that Democrats nationally do not see Iowa’s Senate race as competitive.

“Franken was written off by Chuck Schumer and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and now we are seeing his campaign spend itself into the ground without gaining traction,” Sundermann said in a news release. “These numbers point to the handwriting on the wall for Mike Franken’s doomed campaign.”

But Franken’s campaign argues that more Democrats are paying attention to the Iowa race following the most recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, which found Franken just 3 percentage points behind Grassley, the tightest margin he has faced since his first election to the U.S. Senate. The difference, with Grassley at 46% and Franken at 43%, falls within the poll’s margin of error for likely voters, which is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

The Democrat’s campaign reported raising more than $200,000 in donations since the poll’s release Saturday.

“This campaign has all the momentum in the home stretch of the Iowa Senate race, and it’s because of the strong and effective campaign Michael Franken is running,” C.J. Petersen, Franken for Iowa communications director, said in a statement.

Congressional races see competitive fundraising

Election forecasters have projected a close race in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District between Axne and Republican state senator Zach Nunn. The recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll also indicated a competitive race, although likely voters were asked to indicate which party they would vote for, not which candidate.

Axne kept her fundraising lead over Nunn in the recent report. Her campaign raised over a half-million more during the last reporting period than her challenger, with Axne raising more than $1.3 million and Nunn at roughly $730,000. Throughout the entire election cycle, the Democratic incumbent has raised about $5.7 million, while Nunn has raised $1.7 million in total.

The Republican challenger has also spent significantly less than Axne both this quarter and in the entire campaign season. Nunn reported spending roughly $650,000 in the most recent reporting period, and has a spending total of nearly $1.5 million. In contrast, Axne spent more than $2.6 million this quarter and more than $4.5 million overall.

Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District had a tighter margin for campaign fundraising in the most recent report. Republican Rep. Ashley Hinson, who currently represents Iowa’s 1st District, raised more than $1.1 million in her election for the newly redrawn 2nd District seat. Democratic challenger Liz Mathis, a state senator, raised more than $1 million.

Iowa’s 1st and 4th districts saw larger differences in fundraising. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks won by just 6 votes in the 2020 2nd District election. Now running in the redrawn 1st District, she raised more than $1 million in the most recent reporting period. State Rep. Christina Bohannan, her Democratic challenger, raised $870,000.

The incumbent Republican has raised over $1 million more than her opponent over the whole campaign season, according to the FEC filings.

Iowa’s 4th District also saw a wide gap between incumbent Rep. Randy Feenstra and Democratic challenger Ryan Melton’s fundraising totals. Feenstra reported raising almost $590,000 in the third quarter, while Melton reported raising less than $29,000.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. Robin has experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald, in addition to working on multimedia projects, newsletters and visualizations. They were a political reporter for the Des Moines Register covering the Iowa caucuses leading up to the 2020 presidential election, assisting with the Register's Iowa Poll, and reporting on Iowa's 4th District elections.

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