Facing primary battle, GOP has little cash

The Republican Party of Minnesota is starting the summer with about $30,000 in its bank account — less than 10 percent of what the DFL party has going into election season.

The GOP is still struggling to pay down debt left over from former chair Tony Sutton’s tenure, when the party found itself $2 million in debt. Though the party doubled its contributions to $301,000 between the end of March and the end of April, it still owes law firms, pollsters and direct mail companies nearly $538,000.

Adding to the party’s financial strain is the upcoming August primary. Republicans endorsed Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson last month to run against Gov. Mark Dayton. But Johnson will be up against three other candidates in the fall, including Orono investment banker Scott Honour, who has more than $250,000 in the bank.

Now, a big question will be how the party defends Johnson in a heated primary battle with so little cash.

GOP party chair Keith Downey was not immediately available for comment.

GOP party chair Keith Downey said he’s not worried, especially when he accounts for roughly $69,000 in cash stored in the party’s federal account, which can be used for general expenses.

“We are in good shape. I can also tell you that we are having a very good June,” said Downey, though he wouldn’t say how much the party has raised since the start of the month. “Clearly the convention and the endorsements that we had…are being very well received by our activists and donors as well. It think that it’s all momentum.”

Meanwhile, the Minnesota DFL party has raised about $1.3 million since the start of the year and has $346,000 in cash. Much of that cash will be used to defend Dayton and to ensure the DFL protects its majority in the state House, where every seat is on the ballot.

A big chunk of the DFL’s money — about $273,000 — came from the DFL House and Senate caucuses, which do their own fundraising. Dayton’s father, Bruce, donated $100,000 in late May, and Dayton’s ex-wife, Alida Messinger, gave the party $150,000 in March.

Even though the DFL has about $24,600 in debt on its books, party chair Ken Martin said he’s happy with the party’s financial position.

“We are buoyed by the tremendous outpouring of support towards the DFL Party and our candidates, which is in no doubt a testament to the hard work and success of our DFL elected officials throughout the state,” Martin said in a statement.

Both parties have federal accounts as well, and frequently money is moved back and forth between the two. According to the Federal Election Commission, the DFL had about $448,000 in its federal account at the end of May.