What Campaign Donations Say About the Gubernatorial Race’s Final Stretch

Print More

After months of jockeying, the field is set.

With runoff wins, Republican Kevin Stitt and Libertarian Chris Powell will join Democrat Drew Edmondson on November’s general election ballot.

More than $12 million has been spent on the race and millions more are expected to flow to the final candidates in the remaining 10 weeks of the contest, making this race easily the most expensive in state history.

Here is a look at what campaign donations can tell us about what to expect during the race’s final months.

Money Matters

Dating back to at least 1998, the gubernatorial candidate who raised the most total money has been victorious on Election Day.

If that trend continues this year, Edmondson will need to do some catching up in the weeks to come.

The latest Ethics Commission filings, which cover donations up to Aug. 13, show that Edmondson has raised slightly more than $2 million this election cycle.

Stitt, meanwhile, has raised about $3.2 million during the last two weeks. The Gateway Mortgage CEO additionally has nearly matched the amount he has taken in from individuals and political action committees by contributing $3.15 million of his own money into his campaign through loans or in-kind contributions.

The fact that Stitt had to battle in a runoff while Edmondson advanced straight to the general election ballot after his June primary win carries advantages and pitfalls.

Stitt will ultimately be able to raise more from individuals than Edmondson since state election laws limit individuals to giving $2,700 to a candidate for each race (primary, runoff, general election). That means Stitt could raise a total of $8,100 from an individual while Edmondson faces a $5,200 cap.

But Stitt was forced to sink a sizable portion of his campaign war chest on the runoff against former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.

Stitt’s latest campaign contribution report showed he has spent about $6 million of his campaign funds and had just $368,557 cash on hand as of Aug. 13. And it is likely Stitt tapped into a significant portion of that amount to pay for last-minute media buys and other campaign costs during the days leading up to Tuesday’s runoff.

Meanwhile, Edmondson has been able to hold onto much of his campaign war chest and reported about double what Stitt had available to spend as of Aug. 13. That means Edmondson’s $703,000 cash on hand will give him a head start when he goes against the GOP nominee in the general election.

Powell, who sealed the Libertarian gubernatorial nomination Tuesday, has raised only a fraction of what the two major party candidates have taken in so far.

Powell has raised slightly more than $10,000 this election cycle and reported $3,017 cash on hand as of Aug. 13.

Small vs. Large Donors

Even though Stitt has handily outraised Edmondson at this point in the campaign, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee has the highest number of individuals giving to his campaign.

As of Aug. 13, 2,935 individuals have given to Edmondson, with the average donor giving about $653.

During the same time, 2,033 individuals have given to Stitt’s campaign, with the average donor contributing $1,408.

Campaign finance figures also show that Stitt’s campaign has attracted far more big donors than Edmondson.

While only 34 individuals have contributed the maximum $5,400 to Edmondson’s campaign, 191 donors have given that amount to Stitt.

But Edmondson has been more successful in targeting smaller donors. He has received contributions of less than $500 from 1,859 people. In comparison, Still has only 658 donor who have given at that level.

This appears to indicate that Edmondson is following the trend of Democrats on the national stage, such as Barack Obama or Bernie Sanders, in targeting a large number of smaller donors to offset a limited number of top-dollar donors.

But it could also show that the GOP’s nominee will be the favorite to capture the donations of influential industrial leaders, executives and other high earners.

PAC Money

Although this year’s gubernatorial race is on pace to break spending records, one group has yet to make a big impact.

Donations from political action committees have made up just a fraction of the money put into the campaigns.

The $24,200 that Stitt’s campaign has received from nine political action committees represents less than 1 percent of his total fundraising haul so far.

Similarly, Edmondson has received just $36,800 from 13 political action committees, which represents just under 2 percent of his total fundraising.

But don’t expect this trend to continue as the candidates move into the general election.

PACs, especially those that represent companies, special-interest groups or industry organizations, tend to spend more freely once a party’s nomination has been locked up and they know who their preferred candidate will face.

And if this year’s election follows the trend of past races, such as Gov. Mary Fallin’s re-election run in which she received more than $600,000 from PACs or businesses, the candidates should expect to see plenty more PAC and industry donations in the weeks to come.