If money talked, it might tell some incumbent Republican legislators to watch their backs.
Each of the 170 state House and Senate seats are up for election. If Democrats pick up either four House seats or six Senate seats in the November election, they’ll break the Republican supermajority — meaning Republicans will be less likely to override the vetoes of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
Campaign finance reports show that, in several key races, incumbent Republicans have far less money than their Democratic challengers.
Individual candidate reports aren’t harbingers of victory. Candidates often receive financial support from their party and from other political groups. But individual fundraising figures can indicate whom donors believe in, and who has momentum as November nears.
Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the N.C. GOP, said campaign cash isn’t necessarily an indicator of local support.
“Roy Cooper and his liberal allies are having to travel to New York City and California to bankroll their radical candidates,” he said in an email.
Robert Howard, spokesman for the N.C. Democratic Party, noted that incumbents usually have more email addresses, social media followers and donors than challengers do. That’s why it’s impressive that Democrats have out-raised Republicans in so many districts, he said.
“This fundraising disparity is happening everywhere — the coast, the suburbs, the mountains — meaning the battlefield is growing bigger not smaller,” Howard said in an email. “With more than 100 seats to hold and members not carrying their weight, Republican leaders are going to be stretched thin, and quickly.”
Howard noted that several of the incumbent Republicans who lag behind in cash are in areas such as Raleigh and Charlotte where it’s expensive to buy advertising.
“Do Republican leaders spend a large chunk of their resources saving one of these long-serving members who isn’t pulling their weight? Or do they use that money in other, less expensive districts?” he asked.
Woodhouse didn’t offer details of the Republican strategy, saying only, “We don’t take political advice from the party on the losing end of the last four general elections in North Carolina.”
Here are 10 Democrats who had more cash on hand than incumbent Republicans by June 30, according to recently filed campaign finance reports.
Marcus (up $18K on Tarte)
Sen. Jeff Tarte, a Cornelius Republican, seeks a fourth term serving the northern and eastern suburbs of Charlotte but trails Democratic challenger Natasha Marcus by about $18,400. Marcus has $156,100 and Tarte has $137,700.
Tarte not only faces anti-Trump sentiment at the polls, but also represents a district that’s been redrawn since he last ran. He’s now running for re-election in a district that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.
Mathis (up $37K on Sauls)
Rep. John Sauls of Sanford is seeking a fourth term representing House District 51, which covers Harnett and Lee counties. He has $15,200, while Democrat Lisa Mathis reported having $52,600.
McAdoo (up $38K on Ross)
Republican Rep. Stephen Ross, the deputy majority leader, is seeking a fourth term representing eastern Alamance County. His opponent, Erica McAdoo, has $58,700 and Ross has $20,300.
Queen (up $39K on Clampitt)
This election marks the fourth time since 2012 that Republican Mike Clampitt and Democrat Joe Sam Queen have squared-off in House District 119 in Western North Carolina. Queen won the seat in 2012 and 2014, while Clampitt beat him by fewer than 300 votes in 2016.
Queen has $56,600 and Clampitt has $17,400.
Lofton (up $44K on Dulin)
First-term Republican Rep. Andy Dulin has about $50,900 on hand, while his opponent Brandon Lofton has $95,500. Dulin’s district, like Tarte’s, was recently redrawn to be more liberal.
Hunt (up $44K on Brawley)
Four-term Republican Rep. Bill Brawley of House District 103 in Mecklenburg County faces Rachel Hunt, daughter of former Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt. Hunt has $132,700 on hand to Brawley’s $88,600.
Mills (up $72K on McInnis)
Republican Tom McInnis is a two-term state senator from Rockingham who faces a challenge from Helen Probst Mills in Senate District 25, which covers south-central NC along the South Carolina border. Mills has $143,200, while McInnis has $70,600.
Shafer (up $86K on Faircloth)
Rep. John Faircloth is a four-term Republican from southern Guilford County who reported having $10,700 on hand. His opponent, Martha Shafer, has $96,700 headed into the fall.
Paul (up $269K on Alexander)
Sen. John M. Alexander, a Republican from central Raleigh, is seeking his third term in office. But he has about $269,000 less than Democrat Mack Paul, a real estate attorney and former leader of the Wake County Democratic Party. Paul has $305,100 and Alexander has about $36,100.
Searcy (up $324K on Barringer)
Sen. Tamara Barringer, a three-term Republican from Cary, has about $300,000 less than her Democratic opponent, Sam Searcy. The district covers Cary, Fuquay-Varina and Holly Springs.
Searcy launched his campaign last year after initially planning to run for Congress against Republican Rep. George Holding. Searcy, who loaned himself $500,000, now has $373,500 and Barringer has $48,800.
Other at-risk GOP seats
Democrats are also doing well in districts that Republicans control, but where the incumbent is bowing out or the seat is open.
▪ In southern Wake County, incumbent Republican District 37 Rep. Linda Hunt Williams isn’t seeking re-election. Local attorney John Adcock hopes to keep the seat in the GOP’s hands and reported having $68,000. Sydney Batch, his Democratic opponent, reported having $91,900.
▪ In northeastern North Carolina, three-term Republican Rep. Bob Steinburg fended off a strong primary challenge from Clark Twiddy in Senate District 1. A few Republican leaders supported Twiddy, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown and Senate Rules Chairman Bill Rabon. That left Steinburg with $8,400 to face Democrat D. Cole Phelps, who has $68,100.
▪ And then there’s House District 6, which starts just east of Greenville and covers the Outer Banks from Kitty Hawk to Ocracoke. The incumbent, Rep. Beverly Boswell, lost the Republican primary to Bobby Hanig, chairman of the Currituck County commissioners. Hanig spent a lot to beat Boswell, and recently reported being $7,900 in debt. His Democratic opponent, Tess Judge, reported having $77,700.