GOP challenger falls behind Tillis in fundraising race

Corrected on July 15. See story for details.

Garland Tucker, the Raleigh businessman challenging U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis for the 2020 Republican nomination, raised less than $200,000 from outside contributors in his first two months as a candidate.

Tillis, seeking his second term, raised $1.9 million in the second quarter, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission. The reports cover fundraising through July 1.

Tucker announced his candidacy on May 6. He contributed nearly $850,000 to his own campaign in loans and donations in addition to the $189,593 he raised. Tucker held just one fundraiser between his official launch and the end of the quarter, said Carter Wrenn, the campaign’s top consultant.

That event was held June 3 in Raleigh and featured some previous Tillis donors among its headliners.

“We’re lining up fundraisers as fast as we can now,” Wrenn said.

Tucker has spent much of the money, too, ending the quarter with $108,000 cash on hand. Tucker has been airing television and radio ads since announcing his candidacy.

Tucker, founder of Triangle Capital, said in June he was “committed to bridge our start-up to conventional fundraising activity.” Tucker has not filed his required Senate financial disclosure form, missing the filing deadline and a 30-day grace period. His campaign said it was an oversight and should file the form within a week.

Tillis reported nearly $4.4 million cash on hand. His 2014 victorious challenge to then-Sen. Kay Hagan was, at the time, the most expensive race in Senate history. And North Carolina is expected to be one of the top Senate races in the country in 2020 as Democrats try to take back the majority. Republicans currently hold 53 seats in the Senate.

President Donald Trump endorsed Tillis in a tweet on June 25. Tillis is expected to appear with Trump at a rally in Greenville on Wednesday.

Sandy Smith, an Ayden farmer, raised $88,597 in the second quarter of the year from outside contributors. (This number has been corrected.)

Among Democrats, former State Sen. Cal Cunningham announced that he had raised $520,000 in the two weeks after his June 17 campaign announcement. He also loaned his campaign $200,000.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller reported raising less than $7,400 in the second quarter. State Sen. Erica Smith and Durham businessman Steven Williams had not filed second-quarter reports with the FEC as of 5 p.m.

Former State Sen. Eric Mansfield, who has dropped out of the race, reported raising $113,925 in the quarter, including nearly $30,000 from himself.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer

Brian Murphy covers North Carolina’s congressional delegation and state issues from Washington, D.C., for The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer and The Herald-Sun. He grew up in Cary and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. He previously worked for news organizations in Georgia, Idaho and Virginia. Reach him at 202.383.6089 or bmurphy@mcclatchydc.com.