“This is a real reality check:” Wisconsin Republican Party outraises Democrats, $1.7M to $36K

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MADISON — The Republican Party of Wisconsin has 47 times as much cash on hand as the state Democratic party.

Reports filed this week with the state show Republicans ended June with more than $1.7 million in the bank. That compares with just $36,000 for Democrats.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Professor Mordecai Lee

"I think this is a real reality check about what a hole the Democrats are in compared to Republicans," said Mordecai Lee, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor. Lee said he'd never seen the gap between the parties this wide.

Democrats are trying to turn the corner after years of election losses in Wisconsin. In the last seven years, they've lost the governor's office, the state Legislature, two seats in the U.S. House and a U.S. Senate seat.

Democrats defended their small bank account balance.

"For the first time ever, the Democratic Party is investing early and heavily in operations on the ground to organize around our shared progressive values in every city, town, and village in our state," said Brandon Weathersby, a spokesman for the state party. "This is a part of Chair Martha Laning's vision to do away with the so-called 'off-year' and organize communities in our state year-round."

Wisconsin Democrats said in May that they had already hired several field organizers ahead of the 2018 campaign.

But multiple former state party officials viewed the news as more concerning.

"This is awful and reflects on the elected leadership of the party," former state party spokesman Graeme Zielinski tweeted.

The Republican party reported raising nearly $2.2 million over the first six months of the year, compared with slightly more than $600,000 for Democrats.

"This is just one more sign that Democrats are in disarray, with no agenda, no serious candidates, and no real message for Wisconsin voters," said Alec Zimmerman, a Republican spokesman.

Weathersby countered that half of the Republicans' fundraising haul -- $1.1 million -- came from four wealthy families. He said Democrats have acknowledged they will never be able to raise as much money as Republicans, but said he remained confident ahead of 2018.

Lee said there is one bit of good news for Democrats -- the next election is a long way away.

"The thing about Wisconsin voters and Wisconsin politics is, the way things look right now can be totally different tomorrow," Lee said.

CLICK HERE to view the Democrats' campaign finance report

CLICK HERE to view the Republicans' campaign finance report

Ken Mayer, a University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor, agreed that the difference between the bank account balances was "kind of eye-popping," but questioned how big a role the parties still play in Wisconsin politics.

Third-party groups raise and spend so much money that they overshadow whatever the parties can spend on ad campaigns, Mayer said.