Lucas Kunce has raised millions to take on Josh Hawley. Will the money matter?

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Lucas Kunce, the Democrat hoping to challenge Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri this year, isn’t having trouble raising money.

Kunce collected $1.5 million in the final months of 2023, and $5.4 million since he announced his campaign a year ago. He has $2.2 million heading into the election year and his campaign said it was a record amount raised in a U.S. Senate race in a non-election year.

But as Kunce rakes in millions and keeps up with Hawley’s combined total from a campaign account, a victory committee and a leadership PAC, he hopes to avoid joining a legion of Democratic candidates who raised record sums only to come up far short on Election Day.

“Lucas’ record-breaking fundraising illustrates a larger point — Josh Hawley is vulnerable and Lucas Kunce can beat him,” said Caleb Cavarretta, Kunce’s campaign manager. “...People in Missouri are fired up because they know what we know — we can take this U.S. Senate seat back for real Missourians in 2024.”

In the 2020 U.S. Senate race in Maine, Democrat Sara Gideon raised $74.4 million, more than double the amount raised by Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, as Democrats raged against Collins for helping to confirm Trump-nominated U.S. Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Collins won by more than 7 percentage points.

That same year in South Carolina, Democrat Jamie Harrison raised $130 million and lost to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham by nearly 10 percentage points. In Kentucky’s 2020 U.S. Senate race, Democrat Amy McGrath raised $94 million against Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and lost by nearly 20 percentage points.

An October poll of the U.S. Senate race in Missouri that pitted Hawley against Kunce found that 45% of registered voters supported Hawley, compared to 32% for Kunce. It’s indicative of the uphill battle facing Kunce, a former Marine who lost a race for the Democratic nomination for Senate in 2022.

Lucas appears favored to win the Democratic nomination this time. After St. Louis County prosecutor Wesley Bell dropped out of the Senate race to campaign against Rep. Cori Bush, a St. Louis Democrat, the only Democrats remaining in the race are state Sen. Karla May, who has raised around $28,000 and activist December Harmon, who has raised around $14,000.

Independent Candidate Jared Young, a Joplin businessman, raised $302,315 in 2023, though most of the money – $205,000 – came from his own wallet.

While Hawley has made a large number of opponents over his six years in Congress – particularly for becoming the first senator to say he would object to the certification of the 2020 presidential election – he has maintained loyal support among many Republicans. Hawley’s fundraising numbers grew in 2021, even after some Republicans publicly denounced him over his role aiding former President Donald Trump.

Hawley had $4.9 million heading into 2024. His campaign raised $1.3 million in the final months of 2023 and spent more than $1.1 million – including around $5,618 on a chartered plane from St. Louis on December 4. Of the $1.3 million, $240,971 came from Hawley’s joint fundraising committee, called Josh Hawley Victory Committee, which raised $565,383.

Hawley’s leadership PAC, called Fighting for Missouri, raised $97,878, though $29,116 came from the Josh Hawley Victory Committee.

Kansas 3rd District

Prasanth Reddy, a doctor and former LabCorp vice president, appears to have consolidated support from Republican leaders in Washington.

Reddy raised $264,713 in the final months of 2023, but more than half of it came from the leadership PACs of sitting Republicans in Congress. His list of benefactors includes House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, who donated $5,000.

He also received $26,149 from Grow the Majority, a joint fundraising committee established by Johnson to help candidates in districts targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Two of the three Republicans in Congress also gave money to Reddy, in effect offering an endorsement. Rep. Jake LaTurner gave Reddy $4,000 and Rep. Ron Estes gave $7,000 through his campaign and leadership PAC.

Ross Perot, the billionaire and former independent candidate for president, gave Reddy the maximum donation of $6,600.

Reddy raised $577,717 since announcing his campaign in July and has $390,994 in his campaign account. That’s far less than Rep. Sharice Davids, the Kansas Democrat Reddy is hoping to defeat in November.

Davids raised $604,439 in the final months of the year, with nearly a third of the money coming from other PACs and leadership committees.

Many of the PAC donations were from large corporations like Visa, or groups with an interest in the committees Davids serves on in Congress, like the Allied Pilot’s Association donation. Davids is a member of the House Transportation Committee.

Davids raised $2.3 million over the course of the year and had more than $1.6 million in her campaign account heading into the election year.