Campaign fundraising a numbers game for Democrats, Republicans

Democrats raising funds from small donors in Monroe County.  GOP relies on wealthy contributors.  Check out the story on Herald Times.

Monroe County was a sure win for most Democrats in the most recent election, but Republicans running for national offices took home the largest chunk of change from area donors leading up to the end of last year.

In the first three quarters of 2015, donors from Monroe County gave nearly $300,000 to candidates running for U.S. Senate, for Indiana’s 9th Congressional District and for president, according to the Federal Election Commission’s online campaign finance records.

Of that total, 75.5 percent went to Republicans — and that number goes up to 78 percent if you don’t include presidential candidates.

That means Democrats took in just less than 25 percent of the money coming out of Monroe County.

But when you look at the number of donations coming out, the figures tell a different story.

Republican candidates garnered 171 donations from Monroe County residents, while Democrats pulled in 229.

Mark Fraley, chairman of the Monroe County Democratic Party, said he isn’t exactly surprised by that.

Republicans have access to a small number of very large donors, while Democrats tend to attract teachers, workers, students and other donors who “don’t necessarily have the means to give large sums,” Fraley said.

The numbers illustrate his argument. Case in point: average donations to the campaigns for Republican Todd Young and Democrat Baron Hill, who both are running for their party’s nomination for the Senate seat that U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, a Republican, is vacating.

Hill pulled in just less than $31,000 from 63 Monroe County donors, averaging about $492 per contribution.

Young netted a little more than $211,000 from 69 Monroe County donors, averaging about $3,060 per contribution.

William Ellis, who heads up the Monroe County Republican Party, said that’s attributable to excitement about county Republicans.

“I think right now with the Senate race, with Todd Young being in it, he’s a hometown boy,” Ellis said, pointing out that Young always has done well with fundraising in the area. “There’s a lot of excitement that we may have someone from Monroe County representing us in the Senate.”

Fraley, though, described the difference as telling.

“I think that really speaks to who they would be responsive to,” he said, elaborating that donation trends would suggest Republicans respond to a small and wealthy portion of the population, while Democrats work hard to take everyone into account.

Having run a campaign himself, though, Ellis said he understands the amount of money it takes to run for office.

He agreed with those who decry how much money goes into political campaigns, saying it’s “frustrating to have to spend so much time on fundraising.”

The issue, he said, is in how people react to a candidate who can raise large sums of money.

“The reality is, voters respond to it,” Ellis said, adding that there needs to be a focus on shifting the way voters think about campaign finance.

At the moment, though, both parties are working to make sure all the donations can result in a win for their party’s candidate come November.

Democrats and Republicans both are finishing up drives to get the signatures candidates need to get on the ballot, and are now focusing on increasing voter turnout.

Both party chairmen are optimistic about candidates’ chances at both the local and national level, especially as some lesser-known candidates start to get some name recognition, and see lots of opportunities in the upcoming primary and general elections.

As Ellis summed it up: “The race is on, so to speak.”

Campaign donations: By the numbers

Senate: $243,195 total from Monroe County

Baron Hill (Democrat): $30,980

Marlin Stutzman (Republican): $1,065

Todd Young: (Republican): $211,150

Democrat John Dickerson and Republican Eric Holcomb had no contributions from Monroe County leading up into the last quarter of 2015. There is no campaign finance information on for Republican Kevin Grant.

House, 9th Congressional District: $38,281 from Monroe County

Erin Houchin (Republican): $1,400

James Pfaff (Republican): $6,000

Shelli Yoder (Democrat): $30,881

Republicans Brent Waltz and Greg Zoeller had no contributions from Monroe County leading up into the last quarter of 2015. There is no campaign finance information on for Republican Robert Hall, who already has filed to run for the GOP nomination, Republican Trey Hollingsworth or Democrat Bill Thomas, who already has filed to run for the Democratic nomination.

President: $16,369 total from Monroe County

Hillary Clinton (Democrat): $4,406

Bernie Sanders (Democrat): $6,628

Ben Carson (Republican): $1,615

Ted Cruz (Republican): $1,787

Marco Rubio (Republican): $1,122

Rand Paul (Republican): $811

Republicans Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Donald Trump, John Kasich, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Jim Gilmore and Democrat Martin O'Malley had no contributions from Monroe County leading up into the last quarter of 2015.