Iowa Congressional 3Q fundraising: Democrats blow the doors off

Here's one for your "things that never happened before 2018" file: every Iowa Democratic nominee for the U.S. House raised more than their Republican opponents did during the third quarter of the election year. Three of the Democrats entered the final stage of the campaign with more cash on hand.

Democratic challengers Cindy Axne (IA-03) and Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) far exceeded previous record hauls for non-incumbent Congressional candidates from Iowa. Like J.D. Scholten (IA-04), they raised several times more money during this reporting period than did the Republican incumbents they face.

The unprecedented fundraising for Iowa candidates is in line with national trends. Democratic campaigns account for about 65 percent of total fundraising for U.S. House races this cycle. According to National Journal staff, 91 Democratic challengers out-raised GOP members of Congress in their districts. In addition, every Democrat in the 28 House districts CNN considers toss-ups (a list including IA-03) raised more than the Republican during the third quarter.

Follow me after the jump for highlights from the latest Federal Election Commission reports, which were due on October 15.


Abby Finkenauer has raised nearly $3.4 million since launching her Congressional campaign last year, almost half of it ($1,616,848.42) in the third quarter. More than $1.4 million came from individuals and $201,987.67 from political action committees or campaigns of various U.S. House Democrats. Another $61,773.48 came in the form of transfers from committees such as the 2018 House Victory Fund.

Media buys and digital advertising were by far the largest expenses for Finkenauer's campaign, which spent $1,879,948.13 between July 1 and September 30. She closed out the quarter with $637,833.67 cash on hand.

Two-term Republican Rod Blum raised $467,819.40 during the latest reporting period, $336,279.20 from individuals and the rest from conservative or corporate PACs or campaigns of fellow House Republicans. Another $85,103.83 was transferred from other committees,

Blum spent substantially less than did his challenger during the quarter: $705,687.66 in operating expenditures and $182,899.85 to the Republican Party of Iowa, presumably his share of the party's GOTV program. As of September 30, Blum's campaign had $1,271,631.09 cash on hand.

Outside groups have spent more than $1 million in IA-01 this cycle, mostly against Blum. However, the Congressional Leadership Fund, the main super-PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, just began running a tv ad attacking Finkenauer on October 16. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which had previously canceled its ad buy in Cedar Rapids, started airing a negative spot about Blum the same day.


Finkenauer's third-quarter fundraising appeared to set a record for a non-incumbent running for Congress in Iowa, until Cindy Axne announced on October 15 that her campaign had taken in a staggering $2.5 million: $2,529,416.31 to be precise. She had raised a little more than $1 million through June 30, which was already a significant amount for a challenger.

Individuals donated $1,965,378.48 to Axne's campaign during the third quarter, PACs or other political committees gave $168,671.91, and $390,272.09 was transferred from other committees, primarily the House Victory Project.

Axne's campaign spent $1,763,911.81 during the latest reporting period. Media buys and digital advertising were the largest expenditures. As of September 30, she had $1,230,693.75 cash on hand.

Two-term Republican David Young didn't have a bad quarter: $501,125.19 in contributions plus $126,869.79 in transfers from committees including Protect the House and the David Young Victory Fund. As usual, he raised more from PACs and political committees ($300,750) than from individuals ($167,845.18).

Media buys and various types of consulting were the largest line items among $854,222.51 in expenditures by Young's campaign this quarter. He donated $34,600 to the Iowa GOP during the third quarter, much less than Blum did. As of September 30, Young's campaign had $1,154,999.46 in the bank.

Outside spending in this race already exceeds $4.8 million. Both Axne and Young have had more than $2 million spent against them, mainly on television ads. I expected independent expenditures by Democratic-aligned groups to help Axne stay competitive on the airwaves this fall, but I never imagined that with a little more than a month to go, she would have more cash on hand than Young. Remember, Axne had to spend heavily to get through the very competitive Democratic primary, while Young has been able to stockpile most of what he has raised over the past two years.


J.D. Scholten continues to raise more money each quarter, drawing on intense hatred for eight-term incumbent Steve King across the country. Through June 30, his campaign had taken in a little more than three quarters of a million dollars. But in the third quarter alone, Scholten raised $661,103.08. More than 90 percent of his intake ($610,156.44) came from individuals, and $56,536.71 from PACs or political committees. Scholten also brought in $17,500.00 in transfers from the House Victory Fund.

Scholten reported $330,938.26 in operating costs during the third quarter, with salaries and advertising the biggest expenses. As of September 30, his campaign had $621,707.58 cash on hand, which will fund some advertising in the closing weeks. IA-04 is an expensive district for paid media, because its 39 counties are part of five markets.

King has been out-raised by challengers before, but usually he steps on the gas by this stage of the election cycle. Not this year. His latest FEC filing reported just $161,672.60 in contributions: $117,222.60 from individuals, $1,450.00 from a few county GOP committees, and $43,000.00 from mostly corporate PACs.

King spent just $122,036.34 during the third quarter, a low number for an entrenched incumbent. He has spent more on salaries and fundraising than on paid media. As has been the case every year but 2012, when he brought in professionals to run his re-election bid against Christie Vilsack, King's main campaign staffers are his son and daughter-in-law. As of September 30, his campaign had $160,561.09 cash on hand, which won't cover much advertising. King is strongly favored (a 7 in 8 chance of winning, according to, but perhaps he is a bit overconfident. Scholten has a feasible path to victory, even if it's a long-shot.

Few outside groups are targeting IA-04, where Republicans have a strong advantage in voter registrations and recent voting history. However, a little more than $100,000 has been spent against King. That includes $41,764 from Doug Alexander, whom the Des Moines Register's Jason Noble profiled earlier this year, and $22,230 from the PAC that is disbursing funds leftover from Kim Weaver's campaign in IA-04.


A quick note on Iowa's second district, where FiveThirtyEight now gives six-term Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack a 99 in 100 chance of winning. Loebsack reported raising $354,528.80 during the third quarter, $163,928.80 from individuals, $5000 from the Iowa Democratic Party's second district committee, and $188,100.00 from a mix of corporate and labor PACs.

Loebsack spent $494,328.14 during the reporting period, with media buys and digital advertising the largest expenditures. He also disbursed $173,000.00 to the Iowa Democratic Party, $1,000 to Axne's campaign, and $500 to the Jasper County Democrats. Last month, Loebsack's campaign manager told me the incumbent had donated $125,000 to the state Democratic Party's GOTV program, which I argued was way too low given his campaign's large bank balance and the lack of a serious threat to his re-election. (Outside groups are not targeting this district.) As of September 30, Loebsack's campaign had $1,678,514.37 cash on hand.

Republican challenger Christopher Peters has raised less than $600,000 this election cycle, including $240,000 in loans from the candidate. During the third quarter, Peters reported raising $108,995.20, spending $130,941.18, and $126,545.36 cash on hand as of September 30.

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