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DFL Party chair Ken Martin said the current financial state puts the party in one of its strongest positions ever.

DFL Party, candidates have financial edge over GOP

DFL Party chairman Ken Martin said the party was on stable financial footing. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher.)

DFL Party chairman Ken Martin said the party was on stable financial footing. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher.)

The Minnesota DFL Party and its two statewide candidates hold significant advantages over their Republican counterparts at the start of the 2014 election year. The state Democratic party announced on Wednesday that it raised almost $3.2 million during 2013, and had $288,000 in total cash on hand as of Dec. 31.

In an upbeat statement accompanying the party’s financial news, DFL Party chair Ken Martin said the current balance sheet puts the party in one of its strongest positions ever.

“Being on a solid financial ground allows the DFL to build the infrastructure needed to provide critical resources to our candidates up and down the ballot in 2014,” Martin said.

The DFL’s figures put it well ahead of the state GOP, which released news of its own financial progress earlier this month. The Republican Party of Minnesota collected $2.5 million last year, and brings $90,000 in cash on hand into 2014. But the party is still paying down longstanding debts, many of which date back to 2010. Despite paying down $520,000 worth of debt during 2013, the GOP still owes $1.17 million to its various creditors.

At the time of the announcement, Republican Party of Minnesota chair Keith Downey said the party was in “a better financial position than we have been in for many years.”  Downey also pointed out that at the beginning of 2013, the GOP had only $2,000 in cash on hand.

In a recent interview, RPM treasurer Bron Scherer told Politics in Minnesota that the party had reached long-term agreements with the individuals and firms it still owes money to, and said many of those deals involve payment plans stretching beyond the end of 2014. Scherer said the party did not anticipate missing any debt payments during the potentially expensive primary season — when most expect at least one major candidate in both the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate fields to challenge the endorsed party candidate — or in the months leading up to the general election.

As part of his statement proclaiming the DFL’s financial stability, Martin made clear that the party is gearing up to spend heavily on the two races that will top the election ballot this November.

“I am confident that both organizationally and financially, the DFL Party is in a strong position to reelect Gov. Mark Dayton, Sen. Al Franken, our congressional delegation, and retain the DFL majority in the Minnesota House of Representatives.”

Both Democratic incumbents hold large advantages over their various would-be Republican challengers. Dayton’s campaign announced earlier this week that his 2013 fundraising totals topped $1.2 million, and that he still held $788,000 in cash. The governor’s total more than doubles the sum posted by his closest Republican competitor, Scott Honour, who raised just over $500,000;  Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, raised the second-most in the Republican field, with about $400,000. Neither of the two GOP money leaders has yet disclosed how much cash on hand they had at the year’s end.

Of all the Republican entrants, only former House Minority Leader and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert kept pace with the governor, and only over a short period of time. Seifert, who launched his campaign on Nov. 21,  raised more than $150,000 between that date and the Dec. 31 deadline. Seifert also reported that his campaign had spent little during that five-week window, and began 2014 with $138,000 cash on hand.

In the U.S. Senate race, Franken’s current holdings pose a daunting challenge to whichever Republican survives the contested nomination process. The first-term Democrat raised $2.1 million during the fourth quarter of 2013, and ended 2013 with $4.8 million in his campaign fund. Those numbers put Franken well ahead of the most able Republican contender to this point: Former finance executive Mike McFadden raised $780,000 from October through December, and had $1.7 million in cash on hand. St. Louis County commissioner Chris Dahlberg announced earlier this week that he had raised $103,000 during the final quarter of 2013, and, with the same announcement, confirmed that he plans to abide by the Republican Party’s endorsement in that field.

Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, and Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, have yet to publicize their own fundraising figures, which are due to the Federal Elections Commission on Jan. 31.

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