RALEIGH — Carolina Journal recently reported on the second quarter federal fundraising numbers for declared U.S. Senate candidates in North Carolina.
However, the U.S. Senate race is just one of three big prizes up for grabs in North Carolina in 2022, with another being the battle to control the General Assembly. Democrats hope to cut into the Republicans’ healthy majorities in both chambers, while Republicans hope to pick up three seats in the House and two in the Senate. That would give the GOP three-fifths supermajorities in both chambers, enough to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes and enact a full GOP legislative agenda.
The third challenge would be winning control of North Carolina’s highest court.
So halfway through 2021, where do the major players stand?
State campaign finance reports for the first half of the year are now being reported to the State Board of Elections.
State Political Parties
The Democrat and Republican parties are the backbones of legislative elections. They handle critical get-out-the-vote operations, messaging, candidate recruitment, and persuasion.
Each political party has distinct operations for their state House and Senate campaigns that are housed in each political party. However, these operations are semi-independently, keeping their own segregated bank accounts used only for legislative campaigns.
The state Republican Party reports $508,000 cash on hand in its state account. It previously reported $642,000 in its federal account for total cash on hand through June of $1,150,000.
Of that, $280,000 has been raised for Republican House campaigns and $100,000 for Republican Senate campaigns.
The Democratic Party reported raising $995,000 with $740,000 cash on hand in its state account. It previously reported $ $998,000 net cash in its federal account for total cash on hand through June of $1,690,000.
Of that, $35,000 has been raised for Democrat House campaigns and $188,000 for Democrat Senate campaigns.
At this same point two years ago, Democrats had $799,000 cash on hand in its state account and considerably more in its legislative accounts. In 2019, mid-year Senate Democrats had $336,000 cash on hand and $277,000 cash in its House account.
The majority and minority leaders in each legislative chamber serve as the top fundraisers for their political parties’ legislative campaign efforts. Little of the money they raise is used in their own legislative campaigns. Most is sent to the state political parties or directly to other legislative candidates in key races.
As he usually does, Republican Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, is leading all legislative fundraising.
Berger reports raising $385,000 in the first part of this year and reports $395,000 cash on hand.
Sen Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, reported raising $130,000 with $303,000 cash on hand.
Sen. Jim Perry, R-Wayne, reported raising $90,000 with $177,000 cash on hand.
A spokesperson for the Republican state Senate campaign efforts tells CJ that individually and through joint campaign accounts it has $1.6 million cash on hand, nearly double that they had at this time two years ago.
Also, Senate Republicans collected a $10,000 legal settlement from 2020 Senate District 24 Democratic Candidate J.D. Wooten.
Senate minority leader, Democrat Dan Blue, D- Wake, reported raising $12,500 and reports $50,000 cash on hand.
House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, reported raising $193,000 and reports $171,000 cash on hand.
In his first six months leading Democrats in the statehouse, Rep. Robert Reives, D-Chatham, reported raising only $7,500 and $45,000 cash on hand but spent nearly three times more than he raised.
Deputy Democratic Leader, Rep. Gale Adcock, D-Wake, did better for the Democrats. She reported raising $32,000 with $74,000 cash on hand.
Other top house fundraisers include House Conference Chair John Szoka, R-Cumberland, $103,000 with $100,000 cash on hand.
House Majority Leader John Bell, R-Wayne, has $60,000 and $80,000 cash on hand.
And in a major surprise for Republicans, first term Wake County freshman Erin Pare, R- Wake, was one of the top fundraisers with $ 101,000 raised, $84,000 cash on hand.
“I am very thankful for the outpouring of support I have received these first six months Pare told CJ. “My team set a high goal and we surpassed it, thanks to supporters in District 37 and across Wake County. I’m proud of the work we have accomplished thus far this session for the people of North Carolina. Spending time talking with donors these first six months has shown me that businessmen and women of this state believe we are on the right track.”
House Deputy Conference Chair Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, reported raising $19,000, and $64,000 cash on hand.
Cooper, who has likely seen his last campaign and is using his fundraising ability to help legislative candidates, reported raising $ 177,000 and reports $113,000 cash on hand.
Carolina Journal recently presented an update on the battle for the N.C. Supreme Court in 2022.
The Democrats’ 4-3 majority on the state Supreme Court is at risk in 2022, as two seats will be up, and both are currently held by Democrats. Republicans only need to capture one of the two to give Chief Justice Paul Newby, a Republican, a 4-3 GOP majority.
Democratic Associate Justice Sam Ervin IV must defend his seat in 2022, and he has already announced plans to run again. He tops all judicial fundraising with $185,000 raised during the first half of 2021. He shows $162,000 cash on hand.
Democratic Associate Justice Robin Hudson faces mandatory retirement in early 2024 because of her age, leaving her seat open. State campaign reports show no active campaign account or fundraising by her.
Democrat N.C. Appeals Court Judge Lucy Inman is aggressively campaigning for the expected open seat on the Supreme Court. Inman announced her intention to run again shortly after being defeated by fellow Court of Appeals Judge Phil Berger Jr. in 2020 for an open seat on the state’s highest court. Berger defeated Inman 51% to 49%, a margin of 71,517 votes.
As reported by CJ, Inman held a high-dollar fundraiser on June 30.
Inman reported raising $100,000 during the first half of this year. Overall, Inman reports $171,000 cash on hand.
Inman is expected to face fellow Appeals Court Judge Rich Dietz, a Republican, who raised $106,000 this year and shows $101,000 cash on hand.
For the right to meet Ervin, Republicans will likely have a primary contest.
This spring, newly seated Republican state Appeals Court Judge April Wood, announced she would seek to move up to the state Supreme Court in 2022.
The third Republican running for state Supreme Court is Trey Allen, a UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government professor and general counsel at the Administrative Office of the Courts. He is Newby’s former clerk, who won a 2020 election to become the current chief justice.
Allen reports $124,000 raised, with $112,000 cash on hand. Wood, who appears to have only begun fundraising in May, reports raising $35,000 with a total of $47,000 cash on hand.
All the judicial candidates have serious fundraising work to do to try and impact their race. Keep in mind, one week of statewide broadcast television in North Carolina will cost these candidates $700,000 to $1 million.
Eye on 2024
Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein and Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson are both expected to throw their hat into the ring for the open 2024 governor’s race.
Stein reported raising $809,000 with $1,038,000 cash on hand.
Robinson had an impressive first half of 2021, raising $500,000 from more than 4,000 donations. Robinson reports $364,000 cash on hand.
It appears Republican legislative efforts are ahead of where they were two years ago at this point. Democrats appear to be slightly behind where they were. N.C. Democrats were flush with cash in 2020 up and down the ballot, but their legislative efforts failed in a year traditionally more favorable to them than 2022 will be.
After this year, legislative Democrats may find money harder to come by in 2022 and Republicans could benefit because donors believe they are bound to retain and grow legislative majorities. Either way, judicial candidates on both sides have a long way to go, and lots of fundraising calls to make if they will have robust campaigns.