Indy Star: Some Indiana Democrats running for Congress have fundraising success despite long odds

WASHINGTON — Some Democratic congressional candidates in Indiana continue to show fundraising success despite facing difficult odds of winning districts that typically vote Republican, according to recently-filed financial disclosure reports.

In three House districts, that’s because of the fundraising ability — or self-funding capacity — of the Democrats.

In the west central 4th District being vacated by GOP Rep. Todd Rokita, the Democrat has nearly as much money as the Republican because neither has much.

Republican Jim Baird, the surprise winner of the seven-way Republican primary, reported only $30,347 in the bank at the end of June. Tobi Beck, who bested five other Democrats to get her party’s nomination, had $16,544 in the bank.

President Donald Trump carried the district by 34 percentage points, making a Democratic victory in the fall unlikely.

And Baird showed in the primary that money isn’t all that matters. Fellow Republican Steve Braun spent more than $1.2 million to come in second to Baird. More than two-thirds of what he spent came from his own pocket. (Baird also largely self-funded his primary race, but spent only about $250,000.)

Besides Braun, two other candidates came up short in the primary despite spending significant sums of their own money.

Democrat Yatish Joshi put more than $570,000 of his own money in the South Bend-based 2nd District, where he came in third in a six-way primary won by Mel Hall.

In the 6th District seat being vacated by Rep. Luke Messer, Republican Jonathan Lamb spent $470,000 of his own money to finish second to Greg Pence in a five-way primary.

Pence, an older brother of Vice President Mike Pence, spent the most of any House candidate in Indiana so far: $1.4 million. Trump won that district, which used to be represented by Mike Pence, by 41 points.

The Democratic primary winner, Jeannine Lee Lake, had less than $300 in the bank at the end of June. Pence had $254,512.

While Pence has benefited from his connection to the Trump administration to raise money, The Star Press in Muncie reported Tuesday that David Letterman may do a fundraising event for Lake.

In some other districts, Democrats have already shown surprising fundraising strength.

Hall, who put about $500,000 of his own money into the Democratic primary in the 2nd District, has since loaned his campaign another $325,000. But he’s challenging GOP Rep. Jackie Walorski who has raised the most of any candidate this cycle: more than $2 million. Six out of every $10 Walorski raised came from political action committees, including from many of those representing businesses affected by the influential House committee she serves on that handles taxes, tariffs and other significant policy areas.

Walorski had $1.3 million in the bank at the end of June compared to Hall’s $479,452.

National Democrats haven’t committed to getting involved in trying to knock off Walorski, who represents a district Trump won by 23 percentage points.

But both her seat in the north, and the south-central seat held by freshman Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, are on a list of districts Democrats believe could be in play if a blue wave develops in the fall.

Liz Watson, the Democrat challenging Hollingsworth, has outraised him in each of the last four quarters. Watson has also raised the most money of any Indiana candidate in small donations — amounts under $200. She’s collected $263,672 in small-dollar donations, representing 12 percent of her haul. Hollingsworth raised $10,393 in small contributions.

Hollingsworth is second only to Walorski in the amount of money he’s raised from political action committees: more than $900,000, which represents about 72 percent of what he’s raised. Watson has raised $176,000 from PACs, which is about 16 percent of her total.

Hollingsworth also has personal wealth he can tap, if needed. He loaned his 2016 campaign more than $3 million, most of which he has paid back or forgiven. And a super PAC funded by his father spent another $1.5 million of the family’s money on his first race.

Watson had $471,348 in the bank at the end of June, despite having to spend money for her competitive primary. Hollingsworth had $608,576. Trump carried the district by 27 percentage points.

In the even more Republican 3rd District in northeast Indiana, which Trump won by 35 percentage points, Democrat Courtney Tritch has raised nearly $500,000. Freshman Rep. Jim Banks has raised $835,555. Banks had $502,401 in the bank at the end of June compared to Tritch’s $310,866.

Unlike House candidates, Senate candidates are not required to file their disclosure reports electronically so they take longer to become publicly available.

Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly provided his most recent report, which shows he raised $1.9 million from April through June. He ended June with about $6.4 million in the bank.

GOP challenger Mike Braun has not provided his report. Instead, Braun released a statement last week saying the report will show that he raised $2.5 million in the second quarter and had more than $1 million in cash.

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