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Home / Politics / Dayton, Honour lead gubernatorial field in cash-on-hand

Dayton, Honour lead gubernatorial field in cash-on-hand

The 2014 gubernatorial race has moved to a new stage, with an endorsed Republican candidate facing three primary opponents. But financially, the overriding reality of the race has changed little from where the situation has stood for several months: Gov. Mark Dayton holds a large cash advantage over all of his potential competitors, who must decide how much to spend in the 10-week period leading up to the August primary.

Dayton finished the month of May with more than $750,000 in cash on hand, according to campaign finance documents that became available on Tuesday. That gives Dayton more money available than all four Republican candidates combined, and more than triple the amount held by  Scott Honour, his closest financial competitor on the GOP side. Honour entered the month of June with $226,733 in his campaign bank account. As with prior fundraising reports, Honour’s final number was partly boosted thanks to his own personal wealth; the former financial executive loaned his campaign $250,000 on May 19.

That loan makes this the second consecutive report where Honour has intervened late in the period to keep his campaign operating in the black, and he has now sunk a total of $401,000 of personal funds into the race.

In a press release issued on Sunday, Honour said he and Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point, continue to “fund and implement” their plan to mount a campaign against the well-funded Democratic incumbent.

“Ours is the only campaign that will have the resources to take on the liberal machine and defeat Mark Dayton,” Honour said.

Jeff Johnson, who won the Republican endorsement at the party’s state convention in late May, finished the reporting period with just $32,529 in cash, the lowest sum held by any of the major party candidates. Johnson’s total contributions received from January 1 through May 31 totaled about $43,000, meaning he had only collected about $11,000 during the months of April and May.

During the same time period, Dayton collected more than $159,000 for his re-election campaign, taking his year-to-date sum north of $346,000. In a statement accompanying the release of Dayton’s fundraising disclosures, campaign spokesman Jeremy Drucker indicated that the governor had been incapable of devoting his attention to fundraising, as the legislative session carried on through late May.

Former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, the candidate who came closest to toppling Johnson in the GOP endorsement battle, raised about $55,000 during the two-month window, and has collected  nearly $121,000 since the beginning of the year. Seifert’s total raised includes a $19,500 loan, his second of the campaign, though an earlier self-loan of $20,000 was subsequently paid back.

Seifert spent $174,000 through the first five months of 2014, and has more than $104,000 cash-on-hand.

The fourth Republican primary entrant has raised more than Seifert during this year, and has spent slightly less, but had less money in his campaign account as May came to a close. Kurt Zellers raised $49,000 during the reporting period, and has taken in $140,000 this year, with total expenses of $161,000. The Maple Grove legislator and former speaker of the House reported holding about $95,000 in cash.

Both Seifert and Zellers are utilizing the political contribution refund (PCR) program, which allows donors to claim a rebate on amounts up to $50 per person or $100 per couple. In 2014, Zellers has received more than $70,000 in non-itemized donations, or those less than $100, and Seifert has received more than $50,000 worth of small donations. Johnson is also using the PCR refund option, but has received less than $19,000 in unitemized donations this year; Dayton opted not to use PCR program.

On the spending side of the ledger, Dayton is devoting a good percentage of his total outlay to staffing and fundraising expenses. The report names five different staffers who have been paid a combined sum of more than $84,000 this year. Anne Lewis Strategies, a Washington, D.C.-based fundraising consulting firm, has done $77,000 worth of business with the Dayton campaign this year, and local firm the Southpaw Group’s tab comes through the end of May comes to $53,000.

Among big Republican spenders, Honour has devoted more than $175,000 toward consulting costs since the start of 2014, while Zellers’ direct mail and telemarketing spending is now approaching $100,000.

Also noteworthy, at least in some instances, are the donors themselves. In Honour’s case, he received a $4,000 donation, the maximum amount allowed, from Ronald Schutz, a partner with the Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi law firm. Like Honour, Schutz sits on the board of directors of the conservative think tank The Center of the American Experiment.

Dayton, meanwhile, took in a $3,000 donation from his former gubernatorial primary opponent Matt Entenza, who contributed in late May. Entenza also contributed about $650 of in-kind food and beverages for a Dayton fundraiser earlier that month. Entenza declared his candidacy for State Auditor earlier this month, beating the filing deadline by just hours; Dayton has chosen to back the endorsed Democratic candidate, Rebecca Otto, despite their occasional disagreement on issues.

Other reports made public on Tuesday found that a pair of dark horse candidates hoping to raise the profile of their respective parties have made a slow start in financial terms. Libertarian Party of Minnesota candidate Chris Holbrook, who registered with the state campaign finance board in late April, loaned his campaign $2,000, and has $900 in cash-on-hand. Independence Party entrant Hannah Nicollet did not register her political fund until the final week in May, and started this month with all of $380 to spend on her nascent campaign.

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