DULUTH-The newest fundraising tallies in the 8th Congressional District showed Pete Stauber leading the money equation, but Democrats seemed to find a collective footing in their bid to hold onto the open seat.
The GOP-endorsed Stauber enjoyed his best quarter in a year of campaigning with nearly $305,000 raised, according to figures filed before Sunday's deadline with the Federal Election Commission.
But the Democratic-Farmer-Labor primary field of candidates pooled more than $309,000 in fundraising. Joe Radinovich ($180,000) and Jason Metsa ($100,000) led the way for the field of five DFL candidates.
As expected, both parties claimed their figures equated to traction in the upcoming primary and midterm elections.
"Pete significantly outraised each DFL challenger," said National Republican Congressional Committee regional spokesperson Maddie Anderson, who maintained the GOP still considered the 8th District "one of our best pickup opportunities in the country." In June, the NRCC added Stauber to its roster of Young Guns - first-time congressional candidates the party believes can perform well in November.
Minnesota DFL Party chairman Ken Martin called the collective DFL effort "a sign of enthusiasm," but cautioned against reading too much into the money.
"What's really going to matter in the 8th is who turns out," Martin said, referring to efforts to register voters and get them to show up at the polls.
After decades of DFL leadership, redrawn boundaries and shifting values have made the 8th District a tightly contested seat since 2010. The seat opened up in February, when Rep. Rick Nolan, DFL-Crosby, announced his pending retirement. Nolan has since joined Lori Swanson's gubernatorial campaign as her lieutenant governor candidate.
Stauber's cash-on-hand total of more than $414,000 continues to give him a head start on the DFL, whose midterm candidate will likely have to expend considerable resources to get through the Aug. 14 primary.
One of the five DFLers, Michelle Lee, rejected the idea that money will prevail in the 8th District. With under $16,000 cash on hand, Lee is relying on human interactions.
"Money is not destiny - nor is it the story of this campaign or primary election," she said in a lengthy statement released over the weekend. Instead of "dialing for dollars," she said she's relying on legwork and building a shared conversation with voters across the district.
After Radinovich previously said he was "feeling good" and "playing to win," regarding his fundraising totals, the Metsa campaign also said it had reason to feel good.
"With just four weeks left (until primary), we are in a strong position with over 50 percent cash on hand," Metsa spokesperson Alida Tieberg said, referring to $125,000-plus in cash on hand. "This is a grassroots campaign powered by volunteers knocking on doors, making calls and investing their hard-earned dollars to make our campaign successful."
8th Congressional District campaign finance reports* for April-June
Total contributions: $181,195.48
Cash on hand: $145,915.76
Ray "Skip" Sandman
* Unless noted, figures provided by the Federal Election Commission
** Figures reported to the News Tribune; candidates may paper file, which takes longer for the FEC to process post-deadline