Democrat Joe Cunningham has outraised Republican Katie Arrington in his bid to recapture South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, which his party hasn’t held since 1981.
Though it’s not the first time the political newcomer has outraised the state representative from Summerville this election cycle, it sends a powerful signal to national Democrats who are considering whether to make investments in Cunningham’s campaign.
Cunningham raised $265,025 between May 24 and June 30, according to his most recent fundraising report with the Federal Elections Commission and obtained first by McClatchy.
Combined with $88,328 he raised in the April 1-May 23 period before the June 12 primary, Cunningham pulled in $353,353 in the year’s second, April 1-June 30, fundraising quarter. He spent $253,763 and he now has $318,937 cash on hand.
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Arrington, who filed her second quarter FEC report on Friday, raised $103,652 between May 24 and June 30, with $61,773 cash on hand. For the full fundraising quarter, she raised $131,343. During that same three-month period, she loaned her campaign $400,000 of her own money, and spent $456,899.
Cunningham received the bulk of his money through ActBlue, an online fundraising platform for Democratic candidates that typically draws small-donor contributions from the grassroots. He has pledged not to take any money from political action committees or incur any campaign debts.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, the South Carolina Congressional delegation’s lone Democrat and Democratic Party kingmaker in the state, gave $1,000 to Cunningham on June 30. Jaime Harrison, former S.C. Democratic Party Chairman who is now an associate chairman of the Democratic National Committee, gave Cunningham $250.
Last week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put the First District on its “Majority Makers” list, a designation for competitive districts that offers Democratic candidates “access to strategic guidance and fundraising assistance.” Being put on the Majority Makers list could lead to being placed in the “Red-to-Blue” program, designed for the strongest candidates of an election cycle that does guarantee a financial commitment from the DCCC.
The committee hasn’t spent money in this district since Democratic candidate Elizabeth Colbert Busch was competing in a 2013 special election. She ended up losing to Republican Mark Sanford, who won back the seat he’d held in the 1990s before becoming governor.
That Sanford won despite the baggage from his 2009 extramarital affair while in the governor’s mansion, and his ex-wife’s accusations of trespassing during the 2013 campaign, demoralized the DCCC for years to come and sent a strong message about Sanford’s staying power in the state’s Lowcountry.
Cunningham’s bid only became competitive after Sanford lost his primary election to Arrington, prompting the committee to make at least two fact-finding visits to the district in the weeks that followed. Cunningham was depending on a strong fundraising quarter to make the case that national Democrats should invest in his race, particularly at a time when Democrats see an opportunity take back seats across the map as part of a national movement rebuking the party of President Donald Trump.
The National Republican Congressional Committee hasn’t said whether it will come to Arrington’s aid as the race becomes competitive from the Democratic standpoint, but she has received backing from members of House GOP leadership.
Arrington received checks from Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers in the days following a serious car accident on June 22 that left her unable to campaign for nearly two weeks.
She also took in $10,000 from Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who hopes to be House Speaker in the next Congress.