Outside cash gushes into Minnesota House, Senate races

1:15 p.m. Updated with revised report for House GOP, which alters the amount it has in reserve

  1. Listen Outside cash gushes into Minnesota House, Senate races

    Nov. 11, 2016

At least eight legislative races have already blown past a half-million dollars in outside group ad spending, with several more contests on course to blast by that amount by Election Day.

Campaign finance reports made public Tuesday show that so-called independent expenditures had neared $15 million with two weeks remaining in the battle for legislative control. Both the House, now run by Republicans, and the Senate, currently in DFL hands, are at stake.

An MPR News analysis of the reports shows the most expensive race is to fill an open Senate seat in the western suburbs. More than $700,000 has been spent by groups trying to tip the race to either DFLer Deb Calvert or Republican Paul Anderson. The winner will succeed Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, and factor into which party leads the chamber for the next four years.

It’s important to note that the MPR analysis doesn’t include direct spending by the candidates, who have become almost bystanders from a campaign spending standpoint. And the figures are drawn from reports filed by major players in the legislative campaign, so the full tally of all groups registered with the state is no doubt higher.

On the House side, a rematch between Republican Rep. Jim Knoblach and former DFL Rep. Zachary Dorholt in the St. Cloud area is tops. More than $628,000 had been plowed into that contest as of Oct. 24.

St. Cloud-area voters are being pummeled with ads in their mailboxes, on their radios and on TV. The Knoblach-Dorholt race is one of three in the area drawing large sums. When combined with the fights for an open Senate seat and a surprisingly competitive House contest next door, more than $1.7 million in all has come into the three races.

Likewise, the Eden Prairie area has been a magnet for money. The race between Republican Senate Minority Leader David Hann and DFL challenger Steve Cwodzinski is at the $600,000 mark in outside spending and an open House race in the district has piled another $430,000 on top of that.

Campaign reports can be telling in other ways, too. Looking at when a crush of new spending occurs can signal which races are turning competitive late in the campaign. By that measure, the races involving Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth and Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston– all veteran lawmakers — have seen surges in spending.

Candidates, political parties and outside groups had a Monday deadline to file the campaign reports, which are the last full look at activity before Election Day.

As of that report, the parties defending their majorities had the most money banked for the final stretch. House Republicans had $950,000 in reserve compared with about $600,000 for House Democrats. Senate DFLers had $777,000 left, far more than the $150,000 available to Senate Republicans. The Minnesota DFL had about $560,000 remaining after almost $2.9 million in independent spending on state races; the state GOP had about $37,000 leftover but also carried $276,000 in debt in its state account.

But the outside group stockpiles are as important. The Democratic-aligned Alliance for a Better Minnesota had about $860,000 left to deploy after already spending $5.4 million this year. Some business-oriented funds, such as the Northstar Leadership Fund, had less but still impressive sums. And, for many on both sides, the money has continued to pour in.

Here is a list of races were outside spending has exceeded $500,000:

DISTRICT INCUMBENT PARTY INCUMBENT AMOUNT
SD44 DFL Open (Bonoff) 700,260.20
HD14B GOP Knoblach 628,374.60
SD14 GOP Open (Pederson) 627,713.24
HD56B GOP Peterson 609,786.14
SD48 GOP Hann 598,882.65
SD17 DFL Koenen 564,957.72
SD21 DFL Schmit 559,027.45
HD21A GOP Open (Kelly) 537,828.46

Here are races where at least $400,000 in outside spending has occurred:

DISTRICT INCUMBENT PARTY INCUMBENT AMOUNT
HD24B GOP Daniels 493,619.45
HD14A GOP Theis 478,543.72
SD36 DFL Hoffman 469,615.24
SD20 DFL Dahle 456,716.00
SD2 DFL Skoe 453,209.98
HD17B GOP Baker 450,996.81
SD24 DFL Jensen 435,544.88
HD48A DFL Open (Selcer) 429,279.84
HD28B GOP Davids 425,824.61

Here are races topping $300,000 so far in outside group spending:

DISTRICT INCUMBENT PARTY INCUMBENT AMOUNT
HD57A GOP Open (Mack) 357,007.93
HD57B GOP Wills 353,095.77
HD12A GOP Backer 351,584.58
HD54B GOP Open (McNamara) 339,969.48
HD44A GOP S. Anderson 331,385.64
  • Mike W.

    //On the House side, a rematch between Republican Rep. Jim Knoblach and
    former DFL Rep. Zachary Dorholt in the St. Cloud area is tops. More than
    $628,000 had been plowed into that contest as of Oct. 24.

    So I’ve noticed in my mailbox in that district. Sheesh…..

  • Ralphy

    $10K here, $20K there, pretty soon you’re talking real $$

  • David P.

    What bothers me more than the sea of cash is that political ads, unlike commercial product ads, have no requirement to be remotely truthful. A political ad can make any claim without recourse, and they often do.
    The Lee Atwater school of politics. It works.