- Democrats running for Senate in California have collectively raised approximately $48.5 million in a heated primary contest, dwarfing Democratic totals in more competitive states.
- Californian donors have historically been a significant source of out-of-state support for Democrats in battleground states.
- “Donor money is not infinite. What is given to one race is obviously unavailable for another race,” Jeremy Mayer, an associate professor of policy and government at George Mason University, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Almost $50 million in funds from Democratic donors is tied up in the race for California’s open Senate seat, which has been held by a Democrat for more than 30 years, as several vulnerable Democrats must defend their seats across a number of battleground states in 2024.
Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee have raised $48,480,829 in their bids to win a seat previously held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who passed away in September, according to the most recent campaign filings for their Senate campaign committees. Seven of the eight Senate seats considered competitive by Cook Political Report, such as in Montana and West Virginia, are held by Democrats, and the party has, in past cycles, raked in tens of millions from Californian donors to support them in key such races.
The seven Democrats defending seats rated as competitive by Cook have a combined total of just $63.8 million in cash on hand, according to campaign filings. Schiff, Porter and Lee cumulatively have $45.4 million in cash on hand as of the most recent reporting period.
“Democrats have, in recent years, demonstrated the tendency to dream a little too big and pile untold sums of campaign cash in the coffers of a litany of no-hopers,” Jason Linkins, The New Republic’s deputy editor, wrote of the California race. “But if Democrats are not careful, they could screw up from the opposite direction, denying critical resources to winnable races in the service of a seat they’re destined to get anyway.” (RELATED: Adam Schiff Earmarked Millions To His Defense Contractor Donors)
California donors poured more than $38 million into Senate races across the country in 2020, according to the Los Angeles Times. In many cases, candidates from other states received more donations from donors in California than in their own states.
Californians donated $8.7 million to Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in 2022, exceeding the $5 million Warnock pulled from Georgians, according to NewsNation. The race was ultimately decided by less than 1 point.
“The 2024 Senate map is historically favorable for Republicans: Republicans are aggressively contesting at least eight Democratic-held seats with Democrats hoping—in a best-case scenario—of putting Sen. Ted Cruz’s Texas seat in play,” according to Axios.
The majority of donors to the Schiff, Porter and Lee campaigns are from California, Cal Matters reported. New Yorkers, also major out-of-state donors for Democrats in key states, were the second largest group donating to each of the three candidates’ campaigns.
“Donor money is not infinite. What is given to one race is obviously unavailable for another race,” Jeremy Mayer, an associate professor of policy and government at George Mason University, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “At the same time, the amount of money is not fixed. It’s related to the passion that a campaign inspires, and the ability of fundraisers and politicians to convince prospective donors of the importance of the race. Think of a Silicon Valley millionaire. They can afford to give to a lot of super PACs, a lot of campaigns, in any given cycle.”
Mayer also pointed out that not having a competitive presidential primary could be a financial boon for the Democrats.
“Seven to 14 Democrats would be frantically raising money like broke meth heads begging on street corners, in California and across the country” if Biden had opted not to run in 2024, Mayer said.
Schiff “has more cash on hand for a race Democrats are guaranteed to win than every single Democrat running for the Virginia House (which either party could control after November) has combined,” States Project Director of Research Aaron Kleinman observed on Twitter.
The Schiff, Porter and Lee campaigns did not respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.
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