Rep. Andy Biggs not raising the level of money needed for possible Senate bid
While Rep. Andy Biggs considers challenging Sen. Mark Kelly next year, he and other potential Republican candidates are already behind in the money race.
Biggs, R-Ariz., raised $243,000 in the first three months of the year compared to the $4.4 million Kelly, D-Ariz., collected in the same span.
Other GOP contenders haven’t formally begun fundraising, effectively leaving them with only their own money for a Senate seat was one of the most expensive races in the nation last cycle.
There are nearly seven full quarters to go to raise money in one of the races that could determine control of the Senate, but Biggs’ pedestrian effort could add to a growing sense that Republicans are still hunting for a top-tier candidate. Kelly started 2021 slightly ahead of the pace that got him to nearly $100 million last year.
“Kelly’s number shows that he has not taken his foot off the gas since last November,” said Jessica Taylor, Senate editor for the Cook Political Report, which forecasts the 2022 Arizona race to lean in favor of Democrats. “He built up a huge fundraising base during the 2020 cycle and I think we’re seeing he’s still able to tap into that donor list. Any Republican looking at this race would have to look at this number and they’re going to have to at least come close to it.
“If you are someone like Andy Biggs that’s bringing in only a couple hundred thousand dollars, I mean, that's OK if you’re in a largely non-competitive House race, but a Senate race statewide is a completely different ballgame.”
Andra Gillespie, an Emory University political scientist, said Biggs’ fundraising performance should not yet be used to measure his potential statewide viability in 2022 — particularly because of his alliance with former President Donald Trump, who could use his donor list to Biggs’ benefit.
“But there will be a sort of ramping-up that he will have to demonstrate,” she said.
The fundraising numbers for all the state’s GOP House members showed no clear negative fallout from the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Biggs and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., raised more money than they did two years ago at the outset of the election cycle, even though both are seen as significant voices falsely suggesting that the 2020 presidential election was marred by widespread fraud.
Biggs’ fundraising jumped from $105,000 in early 2019 to $243,000 this time. Gosar’s first-quarter haul went from $33,000 to $120,000.
Republican Reps. Debbie Lesko and David Schweikert also voted to set aside election results on Jan. 6, but were not as vocal on the issue of election theft as Biggs and Gosar. They saw their fundraising dip compared to the first quarter two years ago.
Lesko went from $170,000 in 2019 to $153,000 this year. Schweikert dropped from $249,000 to $177,000.
Zachery Henry, a GOP consultant and former spokesman for the Arizona Republican Party, said the fundraising reflects how in touch the House GOP members were to the average Republican voter.
“The average Republican voter was looking for a fighter to say, ‘We don’t know what happened, but we want someone to figure it out,’” Henry said. “... The (lawmakers) who did step out there and put their names on it and said ‘We want to pause what’s going on and figure out if there’s any fraud,’ I think those legislators probably improved their favorability among the base.”
There was less intrigue around the fundraising for Arizona’s House Democrats.
Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., who holds one of the more competitive seats in the country, collected $344,000 this year. That’s well ahead of the pace he set in 2019, when he took in $221,000 to begin the cycle.
One of his benefactors was a PAC affiliated with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., whose left-leaning priorities seem at odds with O’Halleran’s reputation as a moderate, though they usually vote the same way.
The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission will redraw the state’s congressional boundaries later this year and O’Halleran’s district, spanning northeastern Arizona, could be reshaped to make it even more challenging for Democrats, who have lost ground for years in rural areas across the country.
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., who announced she is retiring from Congress after this term, saw her fundraising plummet. Kirkpatrick usually is one of the best at raising money in Arizona, but her total went from $278,000 in 2019 to $46,000 this year.
After her decision, she took in less than $1,000 from those who gave at least $200. Contributions are usually heaviest at the end of the quarterly cycle, and she reported none.
Rep. Ruben Gallego’s fundraising also dropped significantly compared to 2019, but that reflects the change from when Gallego was considering a Senate run against Kelly to his more-typical fundraising in his safely Democratic seat.
Gallego raised $399,000 in 2019 and just $156,000 this year.
That was still ahead of Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., who took in $74,000 this year for his safely Democratic district.
Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Ariz., who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor, raised slightly less than he did two years ago, $146,000 compared to $156,000 in 2019.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., won’t face voters again until 2024, and reported a total that was modest for her. She collected $439,000 in early 2019. This year she reported $376,000.
In the Senate race, whoever emerges from the right to challenge Kelly will face one of the most prolific fundraisers in the country and an incumbent who enjoys high approval ratings with Arizonans.
Kelly defeated former Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., in 2020’s special election to fill the remainder of the term once held by the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Several potential GOP candidates are studying their chances against Kelly.
"Sen. Kelly is focused on delivering for Arizona to beat this virus and rebuild our economy, and there is no doubt that thanks to our grassroots supporters chipping in a few bucks at a time, this campaign will have the resources to go the distance regardless of the opponent,” Emma Brown, Kelly’s campaign manager, said in a written statement to The Arizona Republic.
Biggs could not be reached Friday for comment.
Biggs is popular with the most conservative wing of Republican voters but there is widespread concern among GOP strategists that he could lose the general election against Kelly.
A former state lawmaker from the East Valley, Biggs has not demonstrated crossover appeal, something seen as critical in a statewide race likely to be settled by the broad swath of independent voters. His efforts to set aside the election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania in the 2020 presidential race also could complicate his efforts to broaden his appeal in the battleground state.
Biggs’ totals were remarkable in at least one important respect: They didn’t plummet in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Dozens of corporations said they planned to pause or end their financial support for Republicans who voted that day to set aside election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania.
Kelly ended the first quarter with $4.4 million in cash. He spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising, direct mail, and texting services, and like other members of Congress, thousands of dollars on security.
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