Iowa's four U.S. House members all entered the election year with substantially more cash on hand than their opponents, the latest quarterly filings with the Federal Election Commission show.
However, Democratic challengers in the first and second districts are raising enough money to fund strong general election campaigns.
Iowa's new political map changed the numbering of Congressional districts, so that the first district now covers much of southeast Iowa instead of the northeast corner.
Republican incumbent Mariannette Miller-Meeks improved on her third quarter fundraising with total receipts of $533,423.93 from October through December. Individual donors gave less than half of that amount ($251,922.69). Corporate or Republican-aligned political action committees gave $142,119.50.
Transfers from other political committees (GOP Winning Women, Take Back the House, and the Miller-Meeks Victory Fund) added another $100,499.36 from major donors. Finally, Miller-Meeks reported as receipts $37,882.38 in offsets to previous expenditures, which were mostly refunds for legal services.
Miller-Meeks' campaign reported spending $152,487.47 on operating expenses during the fourth quarter (mostly on various kinds of consulting) and refunded $11,781.79 in contributions from three donors. The campaign also gave three $1,500 donations to other GOP candidates.
As of December 31, Miller-Meeks' campaign had $1,837,153.86 cash on hand and owed $186,500 on loans from the candidate in 2020.
Kyle Kuehl plans to seek the Republican nomination as well, but so far he has not raised enough money to get a message out district-wide. His campaign reported raising $7,880 from individual donors during the fourth quarter. $1,480 of that amount was unitemized, and six donors gave a total of $6,400. Christine Schilling, the widow of former U.S. Representative Bobby Schilling, maxed out to Kuehl with a $2,900 contribution. Miller-Meeks defeated Schilling in the 2020 primary for what was then IA-02.
Kuehl chipped in $1,000 to his campaign and reported spending just $67.40, leaving $8,812.60 cash on hand as of December 31.
Democratic candidate Christina Bohannan reported $346,793.56 in total 4Q receipts, a slight improvement on her third quarter fundraising. She out-raised Miller-Meeks among individual donors, raising $319,224.81. Like most challengers, Bohannan raised less from PACs ($27,500) than did the incumbent.
Bohannan's running a fairly lean operation. Staff salaries and related costs were the biggest line items among $103,023.49 in operating costs. The campaign also refunded one $1,000 donation. The challenger closed out the year with $486,387.41 cash on hand, most of which can be saved for the general election.
Republican incumbent Ashley Hinson was elected in Iowa's first district in 2020 but will be seeking re-election in IA-02, covering much of the same northeast Iowa territory. Although she didn't match her 3Q haul, her campaign reported $811,577.54 in total receipts from October through December. Individual donors gave $593,569.13, of which $276,971.22 were reported as unitemized contributions (totaling less than $200).
A long list of corporate and Republican-aligned PACs gave the campaign $170,400 during the quarter, and transfers from the Ashley Hinson Victory Committee (which came mostly from large donors) totaled $47,259.41.
Hinson continues to have a very high burn rate for an off-year. Her campaign reported spending $643,461.26 on operating costs from October through December. Consultants are doing very well, and Hinson has been spending heavily on direct mail. The campaign also spent $38,700 on "survey research," but to my knowledge, hasn't released the results from that internal polling.
As of December 31, Hinson's campaign had $1,597,477.65 in the bank, which is plenty for a district-wide effort during the general election. But the incumbent would be even better positioned if she had kept her spending at a lower level in 2021.
Democratic candidate Liz Mathis also didn't match her 3Q fundraising but nevertheless reported impressive numbers for a challenger: $551,866.80 in total contributions. Individual donors gave $508,866.80, and various labor or progressive PACs gave $43,000.
The Mathis campaign spent $172,906.47 on operating costs from October through December, including staff salaries, fundraising and digital consulting, digital advertising, list acquisition, and direct mail.
The challenger's cash-on-hand total as of December 31 ($933,043.50) sets her up well going into the election year, since Mathis will have no serious competition for the Democratic nomination.
Numbers from the FEC filings, which became public on January 31, may have influenced the Cook Political Report's analysts to change their rating on this race from solid Republican to likely Republican in early February.
Bleeding Heartland separately covered the noteworthy (and surprising) details from the the latest FEC filings by third district candidates. To recap: Democratic incumbent Cindy Axne reported $718,038.17 in total receipts during the fourth quarter, far more than her three Republican opponents raised combined. Axne's campaign closed out the year with $2,104,780.81 cash on hand and no debts.
The National Republican Congressional Committee's preferred candidate, Zach Nunn, raised $104,169.52 during the fourth quarter, which was substantially less than his third quarter haul. His operating costs for the three-month period exceeded his fundraising. As of December 31, his campaign had $270,522 cash on hand, which included $120,000 in loans from the candidate.
Republican contender Nicole Hasso raised $169,030.92 during the fourth quarter, but racked up operating costs of $170,210.73. At year-end, her campaign had $133,567.93 in the bank and $34,867.42 in unpaid bills.
The third GOP candidate, Gary Leffler, did not raise or spend enough last year to trigger FEC reporting requirements. In a telephone interview with Bleeding Heartland, he explained the grassroots strategy he is pursuing, rather than focusing on fundraising and high-priced consultants.
First-term Republican Randy Feenstra raised far less than his Iowa colleagues, reflecting the reality that the fourth Congressional district is not likely to be competitive. Donald Trump outpolled Joe Biden by roughly 62 percent to 36 percent in the 36 counties that make up Feenstra's new district. Kim Reynolds received 59 percent of the vote in these counties in the 2018 governor's race.
Feenstra's campaign reported $349,110.36 in total receipts from October through December. Less than half of that amount ($160,665.89) came from individual donors. Several dozen corporate or Republican PACs gave a total of $148,100. Another $40,344.47 was transferred from the Feenstra Victory Fund; donors maxing out at the $2,900 or $5,800 level accounted for most of those contributions.
Operating costs for Feenstra's campaign totaled $100,204.28 in the fourth quarter, with various kinds of consulting, printing, direct mail, and website expenses the most costly items. Feenstra also refunded a few contributions and transferred $5,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, $13,500 to the Republican Party of Iowa, and $2,000 to the campaign of U.S. Representative Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania.
As of December 31, the incumbent's campaign had $861,525.80 cash on hand, more than enough to fund a campaign in an uncompetitive district.
Democrat Ryan Melton announced in late January that he will run in IA-04. Melton won't need to file a quarterly report with the FEC until April. You can follow his campaign on Facebook. His website is www.meltonforiowa.com.