How much money candidates are raising, spending in the Delaware primary election
In the Delaware primaries for governor, U.S. Senate, insurance commissioner and the seven Statehouse races in which a lawmaker is being challenged by a member of their own party, incumbents this year are almost always outraising and outspending their opponents.
It’s no surprise.
Sitting officials have powerful connections in Delaware’s political realm while their challengers tend to be underdogs with little name recognition, corporate funding or union backing.
U.S. Sen. Chris Coons enjoys a multimillion-dollar lead against his progressive opponent, Jessica Scarane, who has pledged not to take campaign donations from corporate political action committees — something that she's quick to point out sets her apart from Coons.
In the Republican primary for Coons’ seat, Trumpian candidate Lauren Witzke is outraising and outspending her GOP-endorsed opponent, Jim DeMartino, with a more than $100,000 lead.
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In the race for Delaware’s lone U.S. House seat, GOP-endorsed Lee Murphy is outspending and outraising his opponent, Matthew Morris. Neither is expected to be a threat against Democratic U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester as she seeks a third term.
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And while Gov. John Carney’s only Democratic opponent, David Lamar Williams, has not filed his campaign disclosures, it’s safe to assume he won’t match Carney’s more than $450,000 on hand.
None of the six Republicans running for his seat has reported anything close to that number, and GOP-endorsed candidate Julianne Murray appears to be outraising and outspending her leading opponent, Sen. Colin Bonini, D-Dover, who won the 2016 primary for governor.
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Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro has nearly $70,000 more to spend than his Democratic opponent, Kayode Abegunde.
In the races for the Statehouse, progressive candidate Eric Morrison appears to be the only challenger who is outspending the lawmaker he’s trying to unseat, Rep. Earl Jaques, D-Glasgow. Morrison has raised more than $25,000 and spent more than $40,000 this year while Jaques raised about $18,000 and spent about $17,000, reports show.
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The six other lawmakers facing a primary challenger have sat on larger war chests: Sen. David McBride, D-Hawk’s Nest; Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna; Rep. Gerald Brady, D-Wilmington; Rep. Ray Seigfried, D-Brandywine Hundred; Rep. Sean Matthews, D-Talleyville; and Rep. John Viola, D-Newark.
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In the race for the open seat to replace retiring longtime Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington North, Sarah McBride has raised and spent tens of thousands of dollars more than her Democratic opponent, Joe McCole.
Big money in mayor's re-election campaign
In the three-way race for Wilmington mayor, the incumbent is fundraising and spending big to stay in office.
Mayor Mike Purzycki has been focused on business and real estate development and attracting new residents to the city, while his two challengers accuse him of neglecting the needs of the city's working- and middle-class neighborhoods.
Purzycki outraised his opponents early in the race in 2016, but this time he's had even longer to solicit donations, and deep-pocketed local businesses and interest groups have responded.
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He began reaching out to donors for reelection almost two years ago and received $64,000 in donations in 2019 alone. He raised $119,000 between January and mid-August. While that was less than what he raked in during the same period in 2016, he pulled in $55,000 in the last three weeks, beating the donations he got in this final stretch last election season.
Those numbers eclipse those of his challengers, City Treasurer Velda Jones-Potter and former Councilman Justen Wright, both of whom officially entered the race around the filing deadline less than two months ago. Their campaigns appear to be more reliant on the candidates' own money.
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Contributions to Purzycki came from prominent names in restaurants, real estate and construction, including the Big Fish Restaurant Group and the Buccini/Pollin Group. Also donating were several top officials in Purzycki's administration; downtown Wilmington lawyers and law firms; and business groups such as the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, whose sole campaign contribution this election cycle was for the mayor's reelection.
Purzycki loaned his campaign $25,000 in August. In the last three weeks, donations poured in from political heavyweights such as CSC and political action committees for JPMorgan Chase and the Delaware Building and Construction Trades union.
Jones-Potter has put $10,000 into her own campaign and loaned it $8,000 more while receiving donations from active community members on the city's north side and the family of Christopher Bullock, the pastor and former New Castle County Council president.
She's also backed by former Mayor Jim Sills, who made a $400 donation. He launched her public career by bringing her to the city Finance Department to clean up budget deficits in the 1990s. Not including her own contributions, Jones-Potter raised over $6,000 between July and mid-August, and close to $8,000 in the last three weeks.
Though Jones-Potter has the name recognition as the sitting city treasurer, former City Councilman and funeral home director Wright has outraised her, netting $13,000 before mid-August and $14,000 in the last three weeks. He's reported receiving several thousand dollars' worth of small donations in both periods and loaned his own campaign $15,000.
He's received donations from real estate developer Paul McConnell; prominent backers of former Mayor Dennis Williams, such as Rev. Christopher Curry; and Williams' police chief, Bobby Cummings. After being replaced by Purzycki's pick for chief, Robert Tracy, Cummings is now working for the state's social services division, heading up a gun violence intervention initiative Tracy restarted in Wilmington.
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Wilmington's firefighters' union is one of the main groups putting up cash to oust Purzycki and his allies. The union, vocal about low morale after the deaths of three firefighters at the end of former Mayor Dennis Williams' term, has been engaged in a yearslong contract fight with Purzycki's administration.
Boosted by a $20,000 donation from a national arm of the International Association of Firefighters, the union's political action committee has poured the maximum donation amounts into the campaigns of Jones-Potter and several candidates who have been critical of Purzycki or are challenging his allies on the City Council.
Purzycki is also dwarfing his opponents in campaign expenditures. His reelection campaign spent more than $22,000 at a single printing company in the last three weeks alone — more than either Jones-Potter or Wright spent total in the same time period.
The current advertising strategy appears to be heavily focused on endorsements from other established politicians and a series of video ads featuring local business owners and four of Purzycki's own city employees.
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Purzycki is getting an advertising boost from retiring Councilman Bud Freel, his administration's staunchest supporter on the City Council. Freel has repurposed his campaign committee toward lawn signs and door hangers promoting Purzycki for reelection as well as a slate of allies such as Council President Hanifa Shabazz.
Freel said he's paid for these with "leftover funds" from his campaign committee, which has not filed a report disclosing donors in this election cycle because Freel is not running. He said he's also seeking donations from past supporters to cover additional advertising costs.
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New Castle County
To keep his seat as county executive, Matt Meyer is far outspending his opponent Maggie Jones, who says she is not openly soliciting donations because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A New Jersey labor group is spending big to influence the race, having made a $202,200 contribution to Round World Consulting, a political communications firm, in August. The campaign finance report disclosing the payment lists Jones and 14th Senate District candidate Bruce Ennis as beneficiaries.
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Meyer has criticized Jones for receiving the organization’s support and has signed a pledge to not take outside money. Jones said she did not know about the payment, which is tied to the political arm of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, until she received a campaign email from Meyer.
"I support everything the unions stand for," Jones said. "So that makes sense. It's just something that happened."
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According to campaign finance reports, Jones has raised $30,412.97 since opening her campaign on March 10. In just the last three weeks, Meyer has raised $28,230.
It appears Meyer began receiving donations for his second run at the beginning of 2019. He received $177,150.53 in 2019 and another $57,897.80 between January and mid-August.
Donations came from several commercial real estate groups; hoteliers; land use attorneys; and other prominent lawyers, including Stuart Grant. Meyer also drew support from many current and former politicians, including former Gov. Jack Markell. Other prominent donors include Artesian Water, Comcast and Wawa.
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Jones is running on the support of multiple unions, most notably the county’s police union, which sparred with Meyer for more than a year over its compensation. Jones also received donations from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the International Union of Operating Engineers and the Delaware Building and Construction Trades PAC.
Sarah Gamard covers state government and politics. Reach her at (302) 324-2281 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard. Brandon Holveck is a trending news reporter focused on local business and breaking news. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jeanne Kuang covers Wilmington. Reach her at email@example.com or (302) 324-2476. Follow her on Twitter at @JeanneKuang.