Jeff Johnson, Tim Walz both have $1 million for stretch run in race for governor

September 26, 2018

The two major party candidates for governor are both entering the campaign’s homestretch with about $1 million in cash, while both parties have already raised and spent big sums on the battle for control of the Legislature.

What remains to be seen is the role of all-important outside groups like corporations, labor unions and wealthy Twin Cities donors — of both conservative and liberal leanings — and where they decide to put their money in one of the most consequential Minnesota elections in years.

While national groups are spending millions on four competitive U.S. House races that could tip control of Congress, the State Capitol has also emerged as a major battleground. Both parties are focused on the race for governor, the Minnesota House and a special election that will determine who controls the Minnesota Senate, which is currently evenly split 33-33.

Jeff Johnson, the surprise winner of the Republican primary against former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, has seen a surge in fundraising for his campaign for governor since late July, raising nearly $1.3 million according to new campaign finance filings made public on Wednesday.

“Clearly Minnesotans have rallied behind our campaign,” Johnson said in a statement.

Democrat Tim Walz, a congressman from the First Congressional District who hopes to succeed two-term DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, also raised $1.3 million.

Both Johnson and Walz face spending caps they agreed to in exchange for taking a public subsidy for their campaigns. Walz cannot exceed about $5 million in spending, while Johnson, having run in a statewide race before, is capped at $4.5 million. Johnson, who failed to raise or spend significant funds during his primary race, has more room to spend freely in the homestretch. Walz has already spent $2.7 million. Johnson has spent just shy of $900,000.

But Walz has already received significant help from the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a Democratic-leaning outside group that spent nearly $1.4 million against Johnson, most of it TV ads hammering him on health care. Johnson says the ads have distorted his position.

A recent Star Tribune/MPR News Minnesota Poll found Walz leading Johnson, but with some voters still undecided.

In addition to the race for governor, both parties and their financial backers are focused on the Minnesota House, where the Democratic caucus has raised $2.7 million to date and is sitting on $1.6 million in cash. Republicans, who need to limit their losses to 10 districts to keep the majority, have raised $1.3 million and have the same amount in cash.

The state Democratic Party continues to be a fundraising powerhouse, especially compared to Republicans. The DFL has raised nearly $6 million, although $2.2 million came from the House and Senate DFL caucuses. The state party has about $950,000 in cash and another $690,000 in their federal account.

The Republican Party of Minnesota, which for years has been plagued by debt, has a cash balance of $171,108. The party’s federal committee has raised $2.4 million since the beginning of 2017 but has just $67,000 cash on hand.

J. Patrick Coolican • 651-925-5042

Update hourly