Democratic challenger Amy McGrath continued her blistering fundraising pace in the spring, outdistancing Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for another quarter in their bruising, free-spending campaign in Kentucky.
Despite her prodigious pace, McGrath ended the quarter with slightly less money in the bank after spending heavily at the end of her bumpier-than-expected primary battle against state Rep. Charles Booker.
McGrath, who is trying to pull off an upset against the top-ranking Republican in Congress, raised $17.4 million in the April-through-June period. The former Marine combat pilot has raised a whopping $47 million since entering the race about a year ago. The bonanza partly reflects McConnell's close ties to President Donald Trump, which has made him a lightning rod for Democrats across the nation.
The question remains whether McGrath's fundraising prowess will translate into votes in November. McGrath lost a congressional race in 2018 and barely won her primary last month.
McConnell, a prolific fundraiser himself, is seeking his seventh term. He raised $12.2 million in the most recent quarter, lifting his total to nearly $38 million for the campaign cycle.
McGrath's campaign said its average donation was $39. It was $35 for McConnell, his campaign said.
Both candidates have deep reserves to draw on for the final months of their high-spending race, based on the latest numbers posted by the Federal Election Commission. McConnell ended June with $16.6 million on hand, while McGrath had $16.2 million.
The Democratic challenger spent millions on a late TV ad blitz to barely fend off Booker's surprisingly formidable bid in the June primary. Booker gained the late momentum by highlighting protests in Louisville and elsewhere against the deaths of Blacks in encounters with police.
McConnell's campaign has characterized McGrath's narrow primary victory as a sign of weakness heading into the fall campaign.
"Chuck Schumer and the Washington Democratic establishment are pouring millions of dollars into Amy McGrath's doomed campaign, but no amount of money can buy McGrath the support of a majority of Kentuckians," McConnell campaign manger Kevin Golden said.
Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, has become a touchstone for McConnell's team in conservative Kentucky.
McGrath's campaign said its fundraising performance reflects a growing grassroots movement supporting McConnell's ouster. It also questioned McConnell's handling of the coronavirus crisis.
"After 35 years of Mitch McConnell putting partisan politics and special interests ahead of doing what's right, Kentuckians — especially the one million who have lost work at some point during this crisis — are outraged by Mitch's repeated failed leadership and are demanding change," said McGrath campaign spokesman Terry Sebastian.
Both McConnell and McGrath have hammered each other in a series of TV ads that will likely intensify in the coming months. McConnell plays up his alliance with Trump, including putting conservatives on the federal bench and his ability to bring federal money back to Kentucky — a point he's emphasized in traveling the state to tout coronavirus-relief flowing to the state. McGrath portrays McConnell as an out-of-touch Washington insider more interested in scoring political points than helping Kentuckians.