IA-03: Every Democrat has the resources to compete (updated)

The Democratic campaign in Iowa’s third Congressional district is unlike any three-way race I can recall here. All of the candidates have raised enough money to get their message to voters district-wide before the June 5 primary. Disappointed activists won’t be able to claim later that their favorite could have won the nomination if only s/he hadn’t been drowned out by a better-funded front-runner.

Meanwhile, two-term Republican Representative David Young continues to amass a huge war chest, mostly thanks to a small army of corporate political action committees.

Highlights from the latest round of Federal Election Commission reports are after the jump.

Both parties will certainly target IA-03, which leading forecasters see as either a “lean Republican” or a “likely Republican” race. The sixteen counties that make up the district contain 158,036 active registered Democrats, 169,677 Republicans, and 169,139 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. Young won re-election in 2016 with 53.4 percent of the vote, nearly 5 points better than Donald Trump’s 48.5 percent in the same area.

Anticipating a competitive race here, Republican-aligned interest groups have come out in force for Young. His latest FEC filing shows total receipts of $309,106.38 during the first three months of 2018. Individual donors gave only about a quarter of that amount ($73,427.00). A long list of primarily corporate PACs donated twice as much ($147,800); many of them gave thousands to Young last year as well.

In addition, Young reported $85,179.38 in “transfers from other authorized committees,” of which $28,727.51 came from the David Young Victory Fund and $56,451.87 came from Protect the House, which supports a number of House GOP incumbents.

Young’s campaign spent $80,296.50 during the reporting period; $63,796.50 went toward operating expenses, mostly for consulting fees. The campaign repaid $15,000 in loans from the candidate, but still owes $235,000 for loans Young provided in 2013 and 2014. The incumbent increased his cash on hand from $833,223.98 at the end of 2017 to $1,062,033.86 as of March 31.

As mentioned above, the three Democrats left standing from the once-crowded field of IA-03 challengers have raised substantial sums for their campaigns. But they will probably have to spend nearly all of it in pursuit of the nomination.

Cindy Axne raised $138,332.38 from January through March, more than the $107,826.50 her campaign brought in during the fourth quarter of 2017, which in turn exceeded the $72,301.00 raised during the quarter before that. Many Congressional candidates pick the low-hanging fruit in the early months of a campaign but have trouble keeping pace with fundraising later on. Axne has been working the phones harder than anyone else in this field, and her strategy has paid off.

Aside from two $250 donations from political committees (one from former competitor Austin Frerick’s campaign and the other from Des Moines Professional Firefighters), individuals accounted for virtually all of Axne’s receipts during the last quarter. Note that all of those contributions came in before EMILY’s List endorsed Axne this month, opening the door to a large national network of Democratic donors. Axne also contributed $1,103.40 in-kind (mileage driven) during the reporting period and loaned her campaign $17,000 near the end of the quarter.

After spending $69,799.26 on salaries and other routine campaign expenses, Axne had $251,293.61 cash on hand as of March 31. That’s enough for paid media and direct mail across the district before the primary. About two-thirds of the registered Democrats in IA-03 live in Polk County, containing Des Moines and most of its suburbs.

Pete D’Alessandro got a huge fundraising boost this year, largely thanks to Bernie Sanders’ endorsement in late January. D’Alessandro had raised $48,904.76 during the third quarter of 2017 and $35,900.91 during the last three months of the year. From January through March, his campaign brought in $149,108.05, all from individuals. In addition, John Delaney’s presidential campaign paid $1,984.00 for D’Alessandro’s e-mail list.

After spending $59,427.12 during the quarter on salaries and other routine expenses, D’Alessandro had $119,521.47 cash on hand as of March 31. Though that’s less than half of what was in Axne’s bank account, it should cover a robust district-wide effort to reach Democratic voters.

Eddie Mauro raised the least from other donors during the last reporting period. Nevertheless, he will be able to outspend his competition for the home stretch of the primary campaign. His FEC filing shows $37,108.00 in contributions from individuals other than the candidate. He loaned his campaign an additional $100,000.00, the same as in the previous two quarters.

Mauro had the highest burn rate among the IA-03 candidates, spending $134,591.00 from January through March. The most costly items were staff salaries, various consulting fees, polling, and the Iowa Democratic Party’s voter list. Even so, the campaign finished the quarter with $335,730.10 on hand. If he’s not worried about being able to repay the $300,000 in debts, all owed to the candidate, Mauro will likely spend more on direct mail and paid advertising than Axne or D’Alessandro.

Although Theresa Greenfield failed to qualify for the Democratic primary ballot, a few words about her FEC filing are in order. Her campaign raised $74,047.28 during the first three months of the year, mostly from individuals other than a $5,000.00 donation from the Midwest Region Laborers’ PAC. Despite a high burn rate–$111,404.08 in expenditures during the reporting period–Greenfield finished the quarter with $171,051.00 cash on hand. (She had raised $199,762.61 during the third quarter and $128,261.93 during the fourth quarter of 2017.)

Two thoughts: it’s a shame Greenfield’s campaign manager didn’t admit in February or early March that they were not on track to meet the ballot access requirements. They could easily have sprung for a paid signature collection effort.

Second: Greenfield had the resources to wage a write-in campaign. I can’t see a write-in candidate beating well-funded competitors, but arguably she could have gained enough support to keep the other Democrats below 35 percent in the primary. In that scenario, a district convention in mid- to late June would have selected the IA-03 nominee. I think Greenfield made the right choice by not taking that path. She now has a huge reservoir of goodwill among local activists in case she decides to run for office another year.

Any comments about the IA-03 race are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: A reader pointed out that I neglected to mention Bryan Jack Holder, the Libertarian candidate in this district. As the Libertarian nominee in 2016, he received 3.9 percent of the vote in IA-03. I have not found an FEC filing for Holder, which typically means the candidate has not raised or spent enough to require that level of disclosure.

SECOND UPDATE: Holder confirmed that he has not filed with the FEC. He explained,

Currently in my 6th campaign for public office since 2014, I have NEVER solicited nor accepted campaign contributions. In 2014 I spent around $200 running for US House and received 4,360 votes (1.5%). In 2016 I spent around $500 running for US House and received 15,372 votes (3.9%). In the Digital Age a creative individual can run for US House efficiently and not prostitute themselves to the corrupting influence of money. My campaigning isn’t about “winning” it’s about Liberty & Justice for All of us little people.

Fair enough. My analysis of this race and other Iowa campaigns will concentrate on assessing candidates who have the capacity to win an election, though.

THIRD UPDATE: Mauro became the first IA-03 candidate to advertise on television with this 30-second spot, launched on April 19.

My transcript of “Middle”:

Mauro speaks to the camera: As a former teacher, I’ve heard every excuse in the book.

First boy: The dog ate my homework.

Second boy: My Dad forgot to do it for me.

First girl: Aliens!

Second girl: The wifi was out.

Mauro speaks to camera: But I won’t accept any excuses in Congress. I’ll fight for a progressive agenda. I’ll fight for affordable health care, and I’ll protect Social Security and Medicare. [Mauro’s name and campaign logo appear on screen next to the words A PROGRESSIVE AGENDA, AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE, PROTECT SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE]

Mauro’s voice: And when Trump and Ryan get out of line? [viewer sees someone taking smart phones away from kids in class and putting them in teacher’s desk]

Mauro surrounded by kids: I’m Eddie Mauro and I approve this message.

Kids: We do too!

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