Gov. Walker outraises 7 Democratic challengers, but fails to beat previous haul

Gov. Scott Walker

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker raised more than seven Democratic challengers combined the last six months of 2017, but the Republican incumbent failed to bring in as much as he did over the same period four years ago before his last re-election bid.

Reports filed Tuesday also showed how well a fractured and crowded Democratic field of challengers was doing raising money against Walker, who is running for a third term this year and is on the ballot for the first time since his failed presidential bid.

The numbers gave both sides something to cheer and be concerned about.

Walker raised $3.7 million over the past six months, exceeding the roughly $2.3 million that seven Democrats brought in. But Walker failed to top the $5.1 million he raised over the last six months of 2013. His yearly total for 2017 of $7.2 million was below the $8.6 million he raised in 2013.

“The takeaway from today is that Democrats do have the enthusiasm that has been rumored for months and Scott Walker is now unable to reach his previous fundraising heights in an environment where he will need them the most,” said Democratic strategist Joe Zepecki.

Still, Walker entered this year with $4.2 million cash on hand. That’s nearly four-times as much as the roughly $1.1 million the seven Democrats had.

“We’re building the resilient grassroots campaign that we know will propel Wisconsin Republicans to victory in November,” Walker said in a prepared statement.

There is no clear front-runner among the nine highest profile Democratic candidates. Seven of them who filed reports Tuesday raised $2.3 million, but only $1.6 million when the $750,000 in loans or payments to themselves is subtracted. By way of comparison, in 2014 when Democrat Mary Burke was the only candidate, she raised $1.8 million the year before the election.

The three highest Democratic fundraisers so far — Milwaukee business Andy Gronik, state Rep. Dana Wachs and former Democratic Party chairman Matt Flynn — were all bolstered by their own personal wealth.

Gronik raised the most at $554,000, but he contributed $450,000 of his own money after promising in July not to do that.

“I think that self-funding political campaigns is wrong,” Gronik told The Associated Press then. “I think it makes you your own special interest and that’s not where I’m coming from.”

Gronik defended the change in position, saying the infusion of his own money was needed to run a serious, statewide campaign “from complete scratch.”

“I’m demonstrating my commitment to ousting Scott Walker by putting skin in the game,” Gronik said.

Flynn raised $350,000, including a $40,000 personal loan. Wachs, a trial attorney from Eau Claire, loaned his campaign $235,000, nearly half of the $555,200 he raised.

Of the candidates who didn’t spend any of their own money on the race, state Superintendent Tony Evers raised the most last year at $312,000. He was followed by state firefighter union leader Mahlon Mitchell, who brought in $310,000 in just over seven weeks.

Former state Rep. Kelda Roys, of Madison, raised $163,000. She did not immediately return a message asking whether she spent any of her own money so far. Political activist Mike McCabe raised $104,000 through the end of the year, bolstered by $25,000 in loans from himself and his wife. He’s refusing to accept any donations more than $200.

Flynn had the most cash on hand at $304,900 followed by Mitchell with $242,000 and Wachs with $163,000. McCabe had the least with $21,150 followed by Gronik with $97,800.

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, of Alma, was also running but had yet to file her report. Madison Mayor Paul Soglin officially entered the race in January, after the current fundraising reporting period.