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Steve Simon holds fundraising lead in Secretary of State race

Mike Mullen//February 14, 2014

Steve Simon holds fundraising lead in Secretary of State race

Mike Mullen//February 14, 2014

Rep. Steve Simon, center, raised $137,000 for his Secretary of State campaign.  (File photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)
Rep. Steve Simon, center, raised $137,000 for his Secretary of State campaign. (File photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

In 2013 Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins, took a commanding financial lead over opponents from both parties in the Secretary of State race, according to disclosure reports that became available earlier this month. With only one prominent Democrat still in the race and a lone GOP challenger, Simon posted a fundraising total for the year several times larger than either of his opponents.

From the time of his August announcement through the end of the year, Simon collected $137,000 in total donations, and entered 2014 with $112,000 in cash on hand. His main Democratic opposition, Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, reported about $39,000 raised during last year, and about $20,000 in cash on hand.

Investment executive Dennis Nguyen, the only declared Republican candidate for the office, brought in $30,000 following the official launch of his campaign in October. Nguyen told Politics in Minnesota he had opted not to focus on fundraising during the early months of his campaign, and instead focused on securing endorsements from prominent elected Republicans, as well as political and civic groups.

Simon, an attorney by trade, received a number of donations from fellow lawyers, along with $2,000 from the Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi political action committee. Among Simon’s notable individual donors is Kelly Doran, the Minneapolis construction and development magnate, who also contributed $2,000, the maximum amount allowed in a Secretary of State campaign. Expenses listed on Simon’s report show the presumptive DFL frontrunner is paying three campaign staffers, including Pam Rykken, who previously served as campaign finance director for Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s 2010 re-election campaign.

Aside from building a fundraising base, Simon also managed to secure a number of key endorsements in the race, announcing the support of 32 DFL legislators as well as former DFL Secretary of State Joan Growe, who held the office from 1975-1999.

Hilstrom’s $39,000 in receipts included a $9,000 self-loan to the campaign. Among her noteworthy contributors are Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, and Mike Hatch, the former Attorney General and 2006 DFL gubernatorial candidate. Hilstrom’s expenses include about $2,000 to the state DFL Party for access to the party’s voter list data.

Like Hilstrom, Nguyen opted to jump-start his campaign with his own money, giving a $20,000 loan to his fund around the time of his mid-October registration with the state. Nguyen then began pursuing the support of Republican legislators, and subsequently announced that he had been endorsed by a majority of Republican caucuses in both the House and Senate, including Senate Minority Leader David Hann.

Nguyen explained his strategy was to unite the party’s leaders behind a single candidate.

“I was doing so to try to prevent any other prominent Republican from running,” Nguyen said. “And I think we’re there.”

With the endorsement backing in place, Nguyen’s focus will now shift to raising money. He expects to raise around $100,000 during February and March, saying he would tap both traditional Republican donor networks — Nguyen reported a $2,000 contribution from prolific Republican donor Stanley Hubbard early in his campaign — as well as funding from a downtown Minneapolis business crowd that, he argued, does not always get involved in politics.

“We’re tapping into new types of money there,” said Nguyen, who has a couple fundraisers planned for later this month.

In the other statewide constitutional races, State Auditor Rebecca Otto brings a hefty financial advantage into her race. The DFL incumbent raised $60,000 last year and spent minimally, leaving her with $67,000 in cash on hand. Republican Randy Gilbert reported about $25,000 raised in 2013 and about $19,000 remaining at year’s end. Gilbert, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP endorsement in 2010, announced his candidacy in August, and remains the only declared Republican contender for that office.

Attorney General Lori Swanson collected $160,000 in total contributions during 2013 and, thanks to carryover funds remaining from the previous year, reported about $225,000 in cash on hand. So far, no well-known Republican candidate has  announced a bid to unseat the two-term Democratic incumbent. The lone GOP entrant on record with the state is Sharon Anderson, a frequent long-shot candidate in that race whose registration with the campaign finance board dates back to 1982. (Anderson became the party’s nominee for the post  in 1994 by winning a primary against the endorsed Republican, Tom Neuville.)

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