The first major round of finance reports are in for Wisconsin’s governor’s race. Candidates are required to report how much money they’ve raised so far, and these numbers are often used to measure the health of campaigns.
Governor Scott Walker has raised more than $4 million for his re-election bid.
On the Democratic side, Milwaukee Businessman Andy Gronik and State Representative Dana Wachs of Eau Claire have each raised over half a million.
But these numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Campaign finances are usually considered a way to weed out candidates lacking support, especially in a crowded field.
Andy Gronik and Dana Wachs raised the most money of all Democratic candidates last year.
But, for Gronik, that included $450,000 of his own money loaned to the campaign, a move he defended after promising not to self-fund his run for governor. As for Wachs, he made a similar self-loan of $225,000.
Once you subtract self-contributions and loans, the list looks different. State Superintendent Tony Evers and former Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Matt Flynn stand out with more than $300,000 from individual contributors.
Evers also had the most individual donors. 2,500 people donated to his campaign, which is more than three times as much as the next candidate. Flynn had the fewest, with 400 donors.
Evers says their early success is due to his last two statewide races for superintendent.
He says, “Frankly, I’ve won three state-wide races so people know me, and they believe in what I believe in especially as it relates to public education.”
Evers is also one of only two candidates that did not donate substantially to their own campaign.
The other candidate is firefighter union leader Mahlon Mitchell who raised $400,000 in individual donations and from labor groups all over the state and country.
Mitchell received a significant amount of support from firefighters and their unions across the country.
“As fire fighters, we are a family, and if you’re going to run for office and you’re looking for support, the first people you are going to reach out to is your family,” Mitchell says.
Political strategists generally expect campaigns to have $100,000 or more going into the spring in order to be considered viable.
In terms of cash on hand, Matt Flynn has the most money in the bank with $300,000.
Flynn Campaign Manager Bryan Kennedy says the campaign is following a more frugal strategy.
“There are several methodologies here, some people spend a lot of their money early, some people save it for later,” Kennedy says. He goes on to say that Flynn will do extensive advertising in the coming months, but that level of advertising was not necessary early on.
Mitchell is sitting in second place with $250,000 in the bank. Evers, Gronik and Wachs are all above the $100,000 benchmark.
Meanwhile, Senator Kathleen Vinehout and campaign finance reform activist Mike McCabe are currently sitting with around $20,000 in cash.
Governor Scott Walker has four times as many funds as all the Democratic candidates combined.
The primary is still 7 months away.