How much money does it take to get elected to the U.S. House of Representatives? “The more the better” is the answer most candidates would probably give if speaking privately or off the record.
Depending upon the location of the election district, the sum needed to win a congressional seat may be one-half-million dollars or less, but more likely today campaign spending could be even more.
Raising the most money doesn’t always predict success. Usually, though, having more money to spend leads to more exposure to the voters and to success at the polls — especially if the lead fundraiser is the incumbent.
The latest Federal Election Commission report on campaign fundraising among the announced candidates in the Wisconsin 7th District Congressional race shows they raised from $14,000 to $337,000 in the reporting period that ended March 31.
The district encompasses the northwestern one-third of the state, running from Superior east to Wausau and on to the state border at Ironwood, MI; south to River Falls and just north of but not including Eau Claire.
While fundraising is a year-round process for incumbents, most challengers didn’t announce their candidacy and begin fundraising until early this year.
Among the seven announced candidates, five reported fundraising amounts to the Federal Election Commission. Incumbent Duffy is the only announced Republican candidate.
Duffy has raised $337,000 in 1st Quarter
Supporters of 7th District incumbent Sean Duffy of Wausau apparently feel the amount needed is in the millions. His supporters have added $2.37 million to his election coffers in the 2017-18 election cycle, and $337,000 in the first quarter of 2018.
About $1.4 million of the funds came from individual contributions and another $913,000 came from political committee contributions.
Frenette leads Democrats with $244,000
On the Democratic side, candidate Kyle Frenette of Chetek leads the Democrats with about $244,000 raised. That amount includes about $193,000 in raised contributions and two personal loans totaling $50,000.
Frenette has loaned more personal funds to his campaign than any other candidate. Election rules allow the candidate to charge interest on the loan when they are reimbursed by their campaign.
Frenette said in a campaign piece his goal is to run a “grassroots campaign” to get big money out of politics, but concedes he must “play the game” and says “I now spend most of my days on the phone asking people for money” win the seat before working on changing election financing rules.
About half of the 700 contributions Frenette has received were $50 or less, he notes, which means the other half of his contributions averaged $500 each.
Other Democrats who reported their fundraising to the commission are Dr. Brian Ewert of Marshfield with about $108,000 raised and Attorney Margaret Engebretson of Balsam Lake with about $14,000 raised. Ewert loaned his campaign $35,000.
Announced candidates who did not file a federal fundraising report are Democratic candidates Bob Look, a former central Wisconsin radio host/program director, and David Beeksma, a psychologist from Ashland, plus Independent candidate Ken Driessen of Hayward. It is unclear at this writing whether they are still in the race.
Candidate Allen Eugene Campos, formerly of Milwaukee, who ran for President in 2016, filed a report showing zero funds raised. He has dropped out of the race.
More candidates may yet appear, as the candidate filing deadline is June 1. The primary election takes place on August 14.