Dayton piles up cash as GOP rivals slug it out
ST. PAUL -- Gubernatorial candidate and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson won a hard-fought endorsement contest at the Minnesota Republican Party convention May 31 in Rochester, but his campaign emerged from the slugfest trailing his three main GOP primary election rivals in the race for cash.
Meanwhile, Democratic-Farmer-Labor Gov. Mark Dayton has more money in his campaign war chest than all four of his Republican challengers combined, according to reports released Tuesday by the state Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.
Dayton had more than $750,000 on hand at the end of May, while the leading GOP contenders — Johnson, a Plymouth resident; Orono businessman Scott Honour; former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert of Marshall; and former House Speaker Kurt Zellers, who lives in Maple Grove — had a combined total of less than $500,000.
Honour was the fundraising front-runner in the Republican field after dipping into a personal fortune. The political newcomer raised $573,330 in the first five months of this year, including a $300,000 personal loan to his campaign.
Honour launched his post-convention campaign with $226,733 in his treasury, more than double the amount of any GOP rival.
Johnson, by contrast, collected less than $48,000 in donations from Jan. 1 to June 1. He spent more than $180,000 to win his party endorsement and left the state convention with less than $33,000 in the bank.
But in the past two weeks, his campaign has raised more than $90,000 and was on pace to meet its fundraising goal of $1 million before the Aug. 12 primary, his campaign said.
This spring, his campaign said, Johnson concentrated on recruiting state convention delegates, not raising money.
“Our strategy worked,” said his campaign manager, Scot Crockett. “We built up a significant war chest for winning the endorsement and focused on building trust with the voters who chose the Republican (endorsee).”
As the GOP-endorsed candidate, Johnson will benefit from the party’s voter lists, access to donors and a grassroots operation with 10 regional offices and more than 100 local organizations.
The party, however, doesn’t have a lot of money to pump into his campaign. Its finance reports showed it had less than $100,000 in the bank at the end of May and more than $1 million in unpaid bills.
The state DFL Party, by contrast, reported having nearly $750,000 and just $21,000 in debt.
While Dayton had more money in the bank than his Republican rivals, together they have raised more than twice as much cash as he did during the past five months — more than $900,000 to his $355,000.
Dayton campaign spokesman Jeremy Drucker said the governor was focused on the legislative session, not fundraising, during April and May.
“However, with more cash on hand than any of our opponents and no serious primary challengers, the Mark Dayton for a Better Minnesota campaign is in a strong position heading into the summer,” Drucker said, “and we are confident that we will have the resources needed to run a winning campaign.”
The governor, an heir to the Dayton department store family fortune, poured nearly $4 million of his own money into his successful 2010 campaign. He has said he will not self-finance this year’s effort.
In the Republican gubernatorial race, Seifert was second in fundraising behind Honour, collecting $143,000 and ending the reporting period with $104,000 in his treasury.
Zellers was a close third in both columns. He raised $140,000 in five months and had $95,000 in the bank. He reported collecting 6,316 contributions with an average donation of $86.
Democrats also have a cash advantage in the contest for control of the state House, where they hold 73 seats to the Republicans’ 61.
The DFL House Caucus raised more than twice as much money as the House Republican Campaign Committee and had more than $1 million in its treasury, compared with the GOP caucus’ $640,000.