An unusually high-profile race for state attorney general is generating an unusually high level of campaign cash.
So far this year, the Ellison campaign has collected roughly $676,000 from about 5,300 supporters. The campaign says 94 percent of those donations came from small donors contributing $200 or less.
But the Wardlow campaign is within shouting distance. It hauled in almost $436,000 from about 4,250 contributors so far in 2018. That exceeds the amount of money that incumbent Attorney General Lori Swanson raised for her entire 2014 campaign, Wardlow said in an email Wednesday.
Money raised since Sept. 18 has pushed the Republican’s fundraising total past Swanson’s 2010 total, Wardlow added.
The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board set Sept. 25 as the most recent deadline for reports on campaign fundraising and expenditures between Jan. 1 and Sept. 18. Updated totals beyond that date are not yet public.
David Schultz, the Hamline University political science professor and attorney, said both campaigns are keeping up with the fundraising pace each set earlier this year.
Ellison raised $213,000 by the previous July 30 deadline; he entered the race in early June. Wardlow had raised $115,000 for the year at that point.
After expenses, Ellison had $335,000 in the bank as of Sept. 18, his latest filing indicates. Wardlow had $239,000 cash on hand on Sept. 18.
The Ellison campaign issued a statement Wednesday saying that its grassroots fundraising propels “a people-powered campaign.” The money will fuel a six-figure ad push as the race heads to its finish, the campaign said.
Wardlow’s campaign issued its own statement Wednesday. “Recent polling indicates that this race is a dead heat, and our fundraising numbers reflect the excitement we’re seeing across the state,” it said.
In a normal attorney general’s race, Schultz said, he would expect somewhere between 33 percent and 40 percent as much money would be raised at this point.
“This is the first time that I can remember where the AG’s race is probably dominating the governor’s race,” he said. “It may be the most high-profile race in the state of Minnesota right now.”
He said Ellison attracts a national audience to the race by dint of his deputy chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee—a job he says he will keep if elected. But nagging domestic abuse allegations also attract national attention and money for his opponent, Schultz said.
The professor notes that conservative media has hammered on Ellison as a counterweight to allegations against President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.
On Wednesday, Ellison issued a statement requesting a U.S. House investigation into the allegations. “I am taking this step now because I am innocent and eager to see this entire matter resolved,” it said. “I welcome an investigation by the House to allow us to move on.”
Schultz added that Wardlow might soon get a shot of adrenaline from more Republican financial sources if Jeff Johnson’s gubernatorial campaign gains no momentum against the DFL candidate, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz.
He notes that the Republican Governor’s Association recently canceled a Johnson ad buy, a sure sign the GOP sees his campaign washing out. Some of that money might end up in Wardlow’s account, Schultz said.
That could add momentum to an already competitive GOP bid for the attorney general’s office, a DFL stronghold for generations.
“Wardlow is my long-shot bet for an upset,” Schultz said. “I can see that happening.”