Democratic candidate Michela Skelton raced ahead of Republican Sara Walsh in fundraising during the first quarter of the year as they prepare for a summer special election for the 50th District Missouri House seat.
Skelton raised $34,974 from her nomination in January through March 31, reports filed this week with the Missouri Ethics Commission show. Skelton, a former legislative attorney, drew her support from hundreds of small donations and a handful of large contributions from Democratic Party sources.
Walsh took in $8,430 during the period and has raised $24,106 overall. Walsh, a member of the Republican State Committee, began her campaign last year, anticipating a race in 2018 to replace former state Rep. Caleb Jones, R-Columbia. Jones, who would have been forced out by term limits, took a job as deputy chief of staff to Gov. Erich Greitens.
Both candidates said they were pleased with their reports. For Skelton, the large number of individual donors equals momentum.
“That small-dollar buy-in will increase voter and volunteer involvement as well,” she said.
Walsh said she has concentrated on becoming known across the district and hasn’t had held a formal fundraiser. She doesn’t expect to be short of cash when it counts, she said.
“We will have enough resources,” she said. “I have been throughout the district, everywhere from Prairie Home to Hartsburg to Ashland.”
The special election will be held Aug. 8 in the district that includes southern Boone County and portions of Cole, Moniteau and Cooper counties. No Democrat has tested the party’s chances in the district since it was drawn to its current lines before the 2012 election.
Skelton raised most of her money from contributors who live in the four counties that include portions of the district. She took in almost $21,000 in those areas, along with more than $9,000 from other contributors across Missouri and almost $2,600 from out-of-state donors. Skelton’s largest contribution was $1,000, from the Moniteau County Democratic Club, part of $2,150 from party committees and officials.
Walsh raised almost $11,000, a little less than half of her total, from GOP committees and party officials. About a fourth of her total, $6,479, was raised from donors living in the four counties that include portions of the district, with another $2,850 from political action committees with business before the General Assembly.
Walsh received three contributions of $2,600, the largest allowed by law. The contributors were attorney Jennifer Bukowsky, the Cole County Republican Central Committee and the Pharmacists PAC.
The campaign contribution limits are new for this election, enacted by voters when they approved a constitutional amendment in November. The new rules bar politicians from donating money from their campaign committees to help either Walsh or Skelton, a common tactic in the past that Republicans had successfully exploited to increase their legislative majorities.
Still, the money is flowing from the personal funds of other politicians and from party committees. The heavy investment Republicans are making shows who Walsh will listen to, Skelton said.
“It shows she won’t be independent if she is elected,” Skelton said. “By getting the bulk of her money from the Republican Party, that will create expectations she will vote along party lines rather than for the needs of the people in the 50th district.”
The district is a conservative district and the support from other Republicans will help her reach voters, Walsh said.
“The message of conservativism and conservative values resonates loudly in our district,” Walsh said. “I am the voice of the district and I am voting in accordance with the voice of the district.”