Fundraising totals for incumbent Democratic Rep. Susie Lee surged to more than $600,000 in the last quarter of 2019 amid a Republican-backed, big-money advertising campaign that has sought to pressure the freshman congresswoman over her vote last month in favor of impeaching President Donald Trump.
The end-of-year total is $110,000 more than Lee raised in the third quarter of last year — a time when she led all of Nevada’s congressional candidates in fundraising by a nearly $200,000 margin — and dwarfs the $387,000 she raised during the same period in 2017. It also leaves Lee with more than $1.5 million cash on hand, more than double her campaign coffers this time last cycle.
While Lee’s totals are largely outclassed by the many high-profile fundraisers in the House — Minority Whip Steve Scalise alone raised nearly $9 million through three quarters — her contribution totals and cash on hand fall roughly in line with a number of other Democrats holding toss-up or Republican-leaning districts.
With more than three weeks to go before the Federal Election Commission’s official filing deadline, direct comparisons remain difficult to make. However, accounting for only the first three quarters of 2019, Lee’s $1.3 million raised was just shy of cracking the top-50 biggest House fundraisers, trailing Iowa Rep. Cindy Axne — another freshman Democrat swept up in 2018’s blue wave and number 50 on the list — by only about $150,000.
Lee’s competitive District 3 has been the target of both the state and national Republican Party since the GOP lost control of the seat in 2016 even as voters there turned to Trump by a margin of 1 percentage point.
And though she won the district over frequent-challenger Danny Tarkanian in a 9-point landslide in 2018, nearly all of the Republican effort to pressure Democratic lawmakers in Nevada on the issue of impeachment has been centered on Lee.
Turnout may ultimately prove to be the key to winning District 3; Democrats hold just a two percentage point registration advantage to Republicans, leading 36 percent to 34 percent, respectively. But while more than a half-dozen Republican candidates have jumped at the chance to challenge District 4’s incumbent Democrat Steven Horsford, just two have remained in the queue to take on Lee.
Those two Republicans — former Treasurer Dan Schwartz and ex-pro wrestler Dan Rodimer — have both so-far lagged behind Lee’s 2019 fundraising, though neither immediately made their fourth quarter fundraising available to The Nevada Independent.
Through the third quarter of 2019, the pair raised roughly a quarter million each, with $264,000 to Schwartz and $251,000 to Rodimer. A sizable chunk of that money, however, came through personal loans to the campaign; Rodimer gave himself $65,000, while Schwartz boosted his war chest with nearly $180,000.
Several other candidates have filed to run for District 3 in the interim including Republican Corwin Newberry, Democrat Richard Craig Hart and independent Alex Pereszlenyi, but as of January, none have filed campaign finance documents with the FEC.