By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has again outpaced her likely Republican general election opponent, incumbent Mitch McConnell, in fundraising during the first quarter — but she remains well behind McConnell in total fundraising and cash on hand.
Grimes’ campaign announced Tuesday the first-term state Secretary of State raised $2.7 million in the first quarter to McConnell’s announced total of $2.4 million.
McConnell’s Republican primary challenger Matt Bevin announced Monday he raised $1.1 million in the first quarter but his campaign did not provide a cash-on-hand total.
Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton said Grimes has “just under $5 million” in the bank. McConnell announced on Monday he has $10.4 million cash on hand after what his spokeswoman termed his best quarter of the 2014 cycle.
Norton was quick to point out that Grimes’ total was $300,000 more than McConnell’s best quarter: “It’s an obviously impressive showing in that the Secretary of State has out-raised Mitch McConnell’s self-described best quarter.”
She said Grimes has raised $7.3 million since she entered the race last July. McConnell has had longer to raise more money — and he has: $22 million for the cycle so far. But as Norton said, he’s also spending a lot more, adding McConnell spent more in the first quarter than he raised.
McConnell’s backers, however, have said that may be a bit misleading because McConnell has spent much of the money on grassroots organization which will continue working for his re-election to a sixth term in the general election – assuming the heavily favored McConnell beats Bevin in the May 20 primary. Bevin has trailed badly in most publicly released polls, but he and his campaign contend he will benefit from grassroots enthusiasm for Bevin backed by national Republican insurgent groups allied with the tea-party movement.
Norton said Grimes received contributions from 45,000 individuals representing all 120 Kentucky counties and all 50 states with 53,000 contributions under $50 and with the median contribution at $25.
“So clearly this is a grassroots campaign,” Norton said. She added that while McConnell has spent heavily on paid media advertising, “we have yet to go on the air and we haven’t spent anything on TV or radio. Clearly we will have the resources to get Alison’s message out.”
McConnell’s campaign has repeatedly criticized Grimes for fundraising through national Democratic and entertainment figures from out of state. McConnell’s own fundraising has depended heavily on contributions from out of state, especially from Washington, D.C., and Texas.
Other Republicans who have declared their candidacy for the May 20 primary but aren’t reporting fundraising are Brad Copas of Lexington, Chris Payne of Salvisa and Shawna Sterling of Sharpsburg.
Grimes also faces opposition in the May primary from three candidates who’ve reported no significant fundraising – Tom Becktenwald, Burrell Charles Farnsley and Gregory Brent Leichty, all of Louisville – but she is the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic primary.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at email@example.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ cnhifrankfort.