CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Republican incumbents in West Virginia’s congressional delegation are outpacing Democratic challengers in early fundraising.
Fundraising reports are one way of assessing what resources campaigns have to get their messages out.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., has already started to build significant funding. Her campaign raised $485,000 during the most recent federal reporting period and now has $2.38 million cash on hand.
For the year so far, Capito’s campaign has raised $1.8 million.
“Senator Capito is grateful for the the support she has received in her race for reelection,” stated campaign spokesman Kent Gates. “The campaign is in a strong position to share her record working for West Virginians with voters leading up to the next year’s election.”
Her challengers have less financial support so far.
Democrat Paula Jean Swearengin, who ran for Senate in 2018 in the primary against Senator Joe Manchin, raised $48,000 during the most recent filing period. Swearengin’s campaign has $33,614 on hand.
Republican Allen Whitt announced a primary challenge to Capito last week, so recently that the campaign did not file a fundraising report. Whitt leads the Family Policy Council of West Virginia, an organization that opposes abortion and gay marriage.
Yet another declared candidate for U.S. Senate, unaffiliated Franklin Bruce Riley, did not appear to have filed anything aside from a statement of candidacy.
The Federal Elections Commission deadline to file quarterly campaign finance reports for congressional races was Oct. 15. In many ways, election season is just getting started.
While West Virginia’s congressional delegation generally has an established campaign track record, the Democratic challengers are relatively new to seeking public office.
“Looking at the data here, I think what we’ve got isn’t as much party divide as incumbent advantage. All these incumbents have had a lot more time to make contacts to secure pledges and for actual donations to come in,” said Marybeth Beller, a political science professor at Marshall University.
But recent political trends in West Virginia also appear to be affecting these races, Beller said. Rather than attracting candidates who have held elected office at lower levels, the Democratic congressional candidates are largely political newcomers.
“We’re a very red state now, and a lot of these incumbents have big followings so it’s going to be difficult for challengers to amass that amount,” Beller said.
In races for the House of Representatives, Congressman David McKinley, R-W.Va., reports $89,520 raised during the period. McKinley’s campaign in the 1st Congressional District has $440,631 cash on hand.
Natalie Cline, the Democratic challenger in that race, raised $3,575 during the period and has $779 on hand.
In the 2nd Congressional District, Congressman Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., raised $227,787 during the period and his campaign has $1,611,964 on hand.
Democratic challenger Cathy Kunkel raised $59,833 during the period and has $46,392 on hand.
Kunkel’s campaign is a good example of what the other Democratic challengers are up against, Beller said.
“While her numbers are considerably lower, she’s very new to this in terms of fundraising,” Beller said. “So I don’t think it’s a good comparison given that incumbent advantage.”
In the 3rd Congressional District, Congresswoman Carol Miller, R-W.Va., raised $94,046 during the period. Her campaign reports $96,089 on hand.
Miller is a first-term representative. She has two Democratic challengers, according to FEC filings.
Hilary Turner, one of the Democrats running in that district, listed $773 raised during the reporting period and has $577 cash on hand.
Lacy Watson, another Democrat, had no apparent fillings aside from a statement of candidacy.