Republicans have outraised Democrats in nine out of 12 legislative races in west-central Wisconsin, but Democrats hold the fundraising edge in the campaigns for the region’s two open Assembly seats, according to statistics compiled recently by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
In the race for the 68th Assembly District seat that Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie, is giving up to run for state Senate, Democrat Wendy Sue Johnson of Eau Claire raised $40,326, or nearly three times the $14,353 collected by Republican Jesse James of Altoona, through Aug. 31, campaign finance reports show. Johnson ended the most recent reporting period with cash on hand totaling $18,273, compared with $7,322 for James.
Reports for the 91st Assembly District, where Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, decided not to seek re-election in favor of a campaign for governor, indicate that Democrat Jodi Emerson of Eau Claire raised $18,902, compared with $3,639 for Republican Echo Reardon of Eau Claire, in the same period. However, Emerson spent most of her donations campaigning to win a four-way Democratic primary, leaving her with just a $2,971 to $1,323 cash advantage over Reardon at the end of the reporting period.
Republicans hold the fundraising edge in the area’s two Senate races, both of which involve open seats — one to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Terry Moulton of the town of Seymour in the 23rd Senate District and the other to replace Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, who didn’t seek re-election because she ran for governor, in the 31st Senate District.
In the 23rd District, Bernier raised $159,683, giving her more than a $95,000 advantage over her Democratic opponent, Chris Kapsner of Boyceville, who collected $65,799. Bernier ended the reporting period with a $134,938 to $44,036 edge in cash on hand.
The fundraising gap was significantly smaller in the 31st District, where Republican Mel Pittman of Plum City raised $73,780, compared with $58,960 for Democrat Jeff Smith of Eau Claire. With Smith devoting a good share of his campaign funds to winning a three-way Democratic primary, Pittman held a $54,914 to $17,107 cash advantage at the end of the period. Wisconsin Green Party candidate Aaron Camacho of Fountain City raised no money, the report showed.
Money is important in today’s campaigns, but winning the fundraising race doesn’t guarantee candidates will win elections. The impact of campaign ads and fliers has its limits, said Geoff Peterson, chairman of the political science department at UW-Eau Claire.
“What’s important, especially for challengers, is raising enough money to get your name out there so people know who you are,” Peterson said. “People don’t like to vote for someone they’ve never heard of.”
Peterson added that candidate spending represents only part of the campaign finance picture, with outside interest groups playing an increasingly large role in spending on campaigns.
In the 92nd Assembly District, Democratic challenger Rob Grover of Galesville collected $48,276 to outraise incumbent Rep. Treig Pronschinske, R-Mondovi, who had donations totaling $30,805. But after winning a three-way Democratic primary, Grover ended the period with a cash disadvantage of $16,976 to $22,575.
Republican incumbents held large fundraising leads in all of the other regional Assembly races.
In the 93rd District, Rep. Warren Petryk, R-town of Pleasant Valley, raised $62,894 — the 10th-highest sum among all candidates for Wisconsin’s 99 Assembly seats — and was No. 2 statewide behind only GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester for cash on hand with $166,908. That compared with $10,684 raised and $3,556 in the bank for Democrat Charlene “Charlie” Warner of Mondovi. Petryk was unopposed when he ran for re-election two years ago.
Rep. Rob Summerfield, R-Bloomer, raised $40,810 and had $35,319 on hand in the 67th District, compared with $19,022 raised and $15,963 on hand for Democratic challenger Wren Keturi of Chippewa Falls.
Rep. Rob Stafsholt, R-New Richmond, raised $40,387 and had $55,756 on hand in the 29th District, compared with $8,315 raised and $585 remaining for Democrat John Calabrese of Menomonie and $1,240 raised and $446 on hand for Libertarian Brian Corriea of Wilson.
Rep. Shannon Zimmerman, R-River Falls, raised $23,785 and had $28,919 in his campaign account in the 30th District, compared with $12,560 raised and $8,004 on hand for Democrat Barry Hammarback of River Falls.
Rep. Romaine Quinn, R-Barron, raised $27,999 and had $43,887 on hand in the 75th District, compared with $8,925 raised and $7,920 in the bank for Democrat Ali Holzman of Cumberland.
Rep. James Edming, R-Glen Flora, raised $13,080 and had an account balance of $9,493 in the 87th District, compared with $3,911 raised and $3,407 on hand for Democrat Elizabeth Riley of Hayward.
Rep. Bob Kulp, R-Stratford, who is unopposed in the 69th District, topped all regional Assembly candidates by raising $73,112 in the latest reporting period, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign figures.
The general elections are Tuesday, Nov. 6.
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