With a little bit more than a month left before the primary election in Kentucky’s Sixth Congressional District, candidates are stepping up their campaigns. That means advertising, debates, phone banks, canvassing neighborhoods, yard signs and bumper stickers.
Almost all of those things take money.
The candidates latest financial reports were released Sunday, and Democratic candidate Jim Gray raised the most during the first three months of 2018, followed by U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, Amy McGrath and Reggie Thomas, in that order. Gray, the mayor of Lexington, has locked up wealthy Kentucky Democratic donors while McGrath has circled the country to raise money to boost her name recognition.
Here’s where the candidates stand:
At any point in this election, the independently wealthy mayor of Lexington can pull out his checkbook and boost his campaign. So far, that hasn’t been necessary.
In the four months since he entered the race, Gray has pulled in more than $1.1 million, including $793,791 in the first quarter of this year, the most of any candidate. He has the most cash on hand of all his Democratic opponents, with $826,023 in the bank.
To raise that money, Gray has relied on a base of wealthy Kentucky donors. In December, when Gray announced his candidacy, 77 percent of Gray’s money came from Kentuckians and 64.6 percent of his money was from donations of more than $2,000.
Now the question is will Gray spend most of that money in the primary or will he try to save it for a potential November clash with Barr? He shelled out relatively little in the first few months of his campaign, but made his first television ad purchase shortly after the close of the financial period.
Since her announcement in August, McGrath has been a national darling. She’s drawn the attention of national media and the endorsement of Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton, whose PAC is campaigning to get more veterans elected to Congress.
That national attention has allowed her to bring in a substantial amount of money — $1,797,867 since she joined the race — even though Gray has tied up many of the big Democratic donors in the 6th Congressional District.
But almost as quickly as she’s been collecting cash, McGrath has been spending it to boost her name recognition in a district where she’s a political newcomer.
In recent weeks, her campaign has made several large purchases, including a $50,000 ad during the University of Kentucky’s opening NCAA Tournament game and $66,620 on a 32-page economic development letter to 49,000 Democrats in the district. She had $623,512 cash on hand at the end of March.
Thomas, a Democratic state senator from Lexington, raised $61,359.49 in the first quarter, well behind McGrath and Gray. That adds little to the $234,083 he’s raised since he announced in July, which is less than what Gray pulled in after one month in the campaign.
Thomas received some attention during the just-concluded legislative session for making several passionate speeches against Republican overhauls of the state’s public pension systems and tax laws, but he has a lot of ground to cover over the last month of the campaign and only $10,538 cash on hand to get his message out.
As the Democrats battle over who will get the chance to oppose him in November, Barr is building a war chest.
The Lexington Republican hauled in $756,483 in the first quarter of the new year. He was aided by a visit from Vice President Mike Pence, whose fundraising committee gave Barr a check for $56,423.
Much of his money comes from political action committees. According to the Federal Elections Commission, 45 percent of Barr’s money has come from PACS — just over $1 million of the $2,221,266 he has in his war chest.
That money will make life difficult for whoever emerges from the Democratic primary, especially if the race gets expensive in the waning days of the campaign.
Democrats Geoff Young, Daniel Kemph and Ted Green and Republican Chuck Eddy haven’t raised much so far, limiting their ability to run a large scale campaign in the 19-county district.