Democratic winners in crowded primary races now turn to rebuilding campaign war chests

With some tough primary contests completed in five more states, Democrats in a handful of crowded House races are now turning to rebuilding the campaign war chests they’ll need as they try to unseat their better-funded rivals.

Races in many of the 61 GOP held districts targeted by Democrats have attracted a big flow of money from long distance donors hoping to shape the outcome of the midterm election. But with money spread across a wide pack, winners of many of the most crowded Democratic primaries now trail their GOP opponents in fundraising.

In this year’s 435 House races, nearly three-quarters of direct contributions larger than $200 so far have come from donors outside the candidate’s district, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The bulk of that out-of-district money is flowing to a relatively small number of competitive races, including dozens of open seats where incumbents have retired or resigned. Since the current House was elected in November 2016, some 84 of the original members have departed or announced they won’t seek re-election this fall, according to the House press gallery.

In Virginia, for example, Democrats have raised some of their biggest district-wide war chests for three of the GOP held seats on their target list for November. But with Tuesday’s primary election over, the winners have less cash on hand than their GOP rivals.

In the tenth district, six Democrats stepped up to challenge GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock, a two-term Republican who is thought to be vulnerable in November. The area west of Washington has leaned slightly more Democratic in recent presidential elections than the country as a whole, according to Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter Index.

As a group, Democrats outraised Comstock, with much of that money coming from long distance donors, according to CRP data. But because the cash was split among so many contenders, the Democratic nominee, state Sen. Jennifer Wexton, now trails Comstock in fundraising. Wexton enters the general election race with less than $631,000 in cash on hand, roughly a third of Comstock’s campaign fund of $1.8 million.

The same held true for two other Virginia races targeted by Democrats, the 7th and 5th districts, where Democrats competed for funds from national donors and faced GOP rivals that were unopposed in the primaries.

Republicans in some races have also split the fundraising pot.

In South Carolina, Democrats have targeted the 1st District, where incumbent GOP Rep. Mark Sanford was upset Tuesday by a Republican a primary challenger, State Rep. Katie Arrington, who successfully attacked Sanford for his recent criticism of President Donald Trump.

Sanford lost his primary bid despite raising the most cash in the race, which leaves Democratic candidate Joe Cunningham, a lawyer, better positioned to take on Arrington in the general election.

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