Politics & Government

Kentucky Republicans leading state Democrats in fundraising

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks at the Commerce Lexington Public Policy Luncheon at the Hyatt Regency in Lexington, Ky., Friday, January 18, 2013. Photo by Matt Goins
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks at the Commerce Lexington Public Policy Luncheon at the Hyatt Regency in Lexington, Ky., Friday, January 18, 2013. Photo by Matt Goins Herald-Leader

FRANKFORT —The Kentucky Democratic Party has outpaced the state Republican Party in raising money in recent years, but that could change this year with U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell's money-generating prowess.

McConnell and the state GOP formed a joint fundraising group last Nov. 13 called "McConnell Victory Committee."

According to records it has filed with the Federal Election Committee, the committee raised $616,000 in its first four months.

Of that amount, $226,688 went to the state Republican Party, which hopes to win enough state House races by the end of 2014 to give the GOP control of the chamber for the first time since 1920. McConnell took in $343,283 from the committee.

McConnell's campaign announced last month that it has raised $1.8 million since January for his re-election bid. That means he has raised nearly $12 million for 2014 and is on track to raise more than he did in 2008, when he raised $20 million and outspent Democrat Bruce Lunsford 2 to 1.

Steve Robertson, chairman of the Kentucky Republican Party, said McConnell's fund-raising ability for his re-election is a welcome boon to the state GOP.

Money from the joint fundraising committee will help the party with its technological needs and especially with efforts to wrest control of the state House from the Democrat, he said.

The committee has an agreement on how the money it raises will be split up, Robertson said.

"It will remain in existence all this year and all next year," he said.

Both major political parties are concerned about the state House, and about the money needed for their candidates.

All 100 state House seats are up for election next year, and the two parties are in a fight for one state House seat this year.

A special election will be held June 25 for Central Kentucky's 56th House District seat. The district includes Woodford County and parts of Fayette and Franklin counties.

The seat became vacant with the recent resignation of Democrat Carl Rollins of Midway to take a higher-education post.

The special election has three candidates — Republican Lyen Crews, a Midway College official; Democrat James L. Kay II, an attorney; and independent John-Mark Hack, a former aide to Gov. Paul Patton. All three are from Woodford County.

The state GOP has not yet contributed to Crews' campaign. Kay received $10,000 this week from both the Kentucky Democratic Party and the House Democratic caucus.

But Republicans seem better poised to help their candidate with campaign money.

At the end of March, the state Democratic Party reported $41,708 on hand. The Republican Party had about $930,000.

State Democratic Party Chairman Daniel Logsdon said his party will "have the resources to win this election. That has never been a problem for this party with Steve Beshear as governor."

Logsdon said the big discrepancy between the two parties with cash on hand now is "only a snapshot of where the finances are of the political parties. We're OK, and we will be OK this year and next.

"The fairer picture is to see where the two parties are at the end of this year."

Logsdon said the party has several fundraisers on tap for this year, including the annual Wendell Ford Dinner, named in honor of the former governor and U.S. senator from Owensboro, to be held June 6 in Louisville. The keynote speaker at the dinner will be Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden.

The Democratic Party in Kentucky has been richer than the state GOP in recent years.

In 2007 and 2008, the state Democratic Party took in $6.85 million, compared to the GOP's $5.52 million.

In 2009 and 2010, the Democrats raised $4.25 million to the Republicans' $3.63 million.

And in 2011 and 2012, receipts for the Democrats totaled $5.26 million, compared to the GOP's $3.19 million.

The Republicans finished 2012 with $521,798 on hand, compared to the Democrats' $178,294.

With the heavy cash infusion from the McConnell committee so far and more to come, Republicans say they will be financially competitive in next year's House races.

Robertson said any or part of any "excess funds" that McConnell raises for his campaign next year can be given at any time to the party.

McConnell might have substantial funds available for the party, especially if he has no major opposition. So far, he has not yet garnered a statewide opponent for his re-election bid next year.