Congressman John Larson speaks at a press conference at a pop-up COVID-19 testing site in the parking lot at the Artists Collective in Hartford’s North End. Cloe Poisson / CTMirror.org
U.S. Rep. John B. Larson MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG

Washington – Connecticut’s Democratic congressional incumbents have continued to raise campaign cash throughout the pandemic and have largely outpaced their Republican challengers.

The lawmakers, with the exception of Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, ended the second quarter of the year with a sizable campaign cash advantage over their rivals. And GOP challenger Margaret Streicker’s advantage over DeLauro was not based on donations, but largely to a $350,000 loan Streicker made to her own campaign.

According to the latest filings with the Federal Elections Commission, Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5th District, has raised about $1.3 million for her re-election bid, ending the quarter with about $1.2 million in cash-on-hand.

Meanwhile, David Xavier Sullivan, her Republican challenger, raised about $235,000 in his effort to unseat Hayes and had about $109,000 in his campaign war chest at the end of the quarter.

The pandemic has disrupted the world of politics as no other crisis ever has. Candidates unable to reach out to voters in traditional ways – through large rallies, appearances at popular public events and door-to-door solicitations for support. And traditional fundraisers have been replaced with less effective virtual events and a greater focus on email solicitations.

Some lawmakers are also queasy about asking for campaign donations while people are suffering and losing jobs and businesses. Hayes said it was “unsettling” for her to try to raise campaign funds.

“It didn’t feel right to me to ask people for money,” she said. Hayes broke her moratorium on solicitations with an email requesting small donations last month and participated in a virtual fundraiser at the end of May.

U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes on a recent Zoom call with fellow state officials. COVID-19 has moved much of what used to be in-person politicking online, making fundraising an unprecedented challenge.

Still, Hayes and Connecticut’s other congressional incumbents continued to attract contributions. Some of the money came from ActBlue, a technology organization that enables progressive Democrats to raise small, recurring donations online.

Political action committees, or PACs, have also continued their contributions through the coronavirus pandemic, donations that are largely aimed at winning favor and access to members of Congress. The Hayes campaign, for instance, raised $80,000 from PACs in the last quarter.

The lawmaker, in her first term in Congress, said she did not expect to raise as much money as she did.

“I was bracing myself for a low quarter,” she said. But Hayes raised $203,126 in from April 22 to June 30.

Sullivan raised $77,000 in that same time period. Among his donors were Linda McMahon, a former U.S. Senate candidate in Connecticut who was tapped by President Donald Trump to head the Small Business Administration. Now the head of America First Action, a super PAC supporting Trump’s re-election, McMahon donated $5,600 to Sullivan’s campaign. Sullivan’s campaign has also received $2,100 from Bob Stefanowski, a wealthy Republican businessman who ran unsuccessfully against Gov. Ned Lamont.

As they face new obstacles in raising money, political candidates need campaign cash more than ever, since social distancing norms keep them from traditional campaigning and there’s greater reliance on campaign ads, which cost money.

“With COVID, we have a much greater task in getting the message out,” Hayes said.

Connecticut’s other incumbent Democrats have also outpaced their GOP rivals in raising political money.

Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, for instance, has raised more than $1 million in this campaign cycle and had $472,511 in cash-on-hand on June 30. Mary Fay, one GOP candidate  in the 1st District race, raised $4,690. Another Republican in the race, James Leonard Griffin, raised $5,984.

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, also raised more than $1 million in an effort to keep his seat. Republican challenger Justin Anderson raised about $51,000, though $38,385 of it was a personal loan to the campaign. Another Republican in the race, Thomas Gilmer, raised nearly $76,000.

But it is Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, who represents wealthy Fairfield County, who has the largest campaign war chest.

Himes raised more than $1 million and ended the quarter with $2.5 million in cash on hand, while his GOP rival, Jonathan Riddle, raised $14,936 and ended the quarter with $9,147 in his campaign account.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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