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Port: Democratic-NPL's current Senate candidate raises less money than ... Heidi Heitkamp's campaign?

Here's a look at the fundraising reports for North Dakota's federal candidates.

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MINOT, N.D. — When it comes to campaigns, incumbents have lots of advantages.

One is name recognition. An incumbent doesn't get to be an incumbent unless a majority of voters have cast a ballot for them before.

Another is fundraising. Incumbents can raise money for their campaign from the first day after their last campaign. Challengers, meanwhile, usually have to start from scratch.

And, in North Dakota, it also helps a whole lot to be a Republican, as the numbers you're about to look at show.

At the federal level, North Dakota has two incumbents on the ballot this cycle, both Republicans. Sen. John Hoeven is running for a third six-year term, and Congressman Kelly Armstrong is seeking his third two-year term.

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MORE FROM ROB PORT
I'm just not seeing a constituency of North Dakota voters that Mund could appeal to that's large enough to lead her to victory. But, again, that's assuming that she's running to win, and not as a way to keep her celebrity alive post-Miss America.

(Hoeven faced a challenge for the NDGOP endorsement for the Senate from state lawmaker Rick Becker. His fundraising numbers are here , and they aren't great in terms of money raised or the number of contributors.)

On the Democratic side, Katrina Christiansen has received the state party's endorsement to challenge Hoeven in the Senate race, and Mark Haugen received the same to challenge Armstrong for North Dakota's at-large House seat.

A man named Michael Steele will also appear on the June primary ballot for the Democrats.

Each of these candidates (with the exception of Haugen, more on that in a moment) has filed an April quarterly report with the Federal Election Commission and, to the surprise of nobody, the Republican candidates have a commanding lead in the money department.

Let's start with the Senate races.

Katrina Christiansen

4G1A1555copy.jpg
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Katrina Christiansen speaks during the Democratic-NPL Party's state convention in Minot, North Dakota, on March 26, 2022.
Kyle Martin / The Forum

According to Christiansen's FEC report , she raised $8,783 in total contributions in the April quarterly reporting period (Jan. 1-March 31, 2022).

That includes $4,005 in itemized individual contributions from just eight individuals, $2,028 in un-itemized contributions (the candidates don't have to identify people who give $200 or less), and a $2,750 contribution out of her own pocket.

Christiansen spent $2,065.53 during the reporting period, and ended it with $6,717.47 in cash on hand.

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Just as a point of reference, the last Democratic-NPL candidate for the Senate was Heidi Heitkamp in 2018 (North Dakota didn't have a U.S. Senate race in 2020). Heitkamp raised over $1.4 million per her 2018 April quarterly report, and ended that reporting period with over $5.3 million in cash on hand. Though, in fairness to Christiansen, Heitkamp had been in office for a little more than five years at that point.

P er her 2022 April quarterly , covering the same reporting period as Christiansen's disclosure, Heitkamp still had over $1 million in cash on hand.

Heitkamp's campaign actually received more revenue in this reporting period (over $6,900) than Christiansen raised from donors, though the former senator's money came from dividends from a wealth management firm that's handling the pot of leftover cash.

Heitkamp has been out of office for almost four years, and her campaign is still drawing in more revenue from passive income than the Democratic-NPL's current Senate candidate.

I know it gets old talking about the rough shape the Democratic-NPL is in, but wow.

John Hoeven

North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven and his family celebrate on stage after he received the North Dakota Republican Party's endorsement at its 2022 state convention on April 2, 2022, in Bismarck.
North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven and his family celebrate on stage after he received the North Dakota Republican Party's endorsement at its 2022 state convention on April 2, 2022, in Bismarck.<br/>
Photo by Kyle Martin

Hoeven's April quarterly report is about what you'd expect for a U.S. Senate incumbent who has, since his first election as governor in 2000, been winning about 70% of the vote every time he's on the statewide ballot. His campaign received $2,472,344.05 in contributions for the reporting period. That includes over $982,000 in itemized individual contributions, over $115,000 in un-itemized contributions, and about $156,000 from political action committees.

I'd count up how many individuals contributed itemized donations to Hoeven's campaign, but his FEC report is 227 pages long , and I think that makes the point. Feel free to count for yourself.

Hoeven's campaign spent over $339,000 during the reporting period, and ended it with over $3.2 million in cash on hand.

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Michael Steele

Senate candidate Michael Steele
U.S. Senate candidate Michael Steele, who is on the June primary ballot as a Democrat.
Submitted photo

Steele is an odd candidate.

He'll appear on the June ballot seeking the Democratic-NPL nomination, but they don't like him very much. "We were not aware of Mr. Steele nor his candidacy until he reached out to us after another candidate announced. At that time, and many times since, Mr. Steele has been abusive and combative," Democratic-NPL chairman Patrick Hart said in a statement about Steele's candidacy last month . "He has chosen to run without any recent work with our legislative districts and without any formative interactions with the state party. We cannot and would not prevent someone from running, but his behavior toward our staff has been inappropriate and unacceptable."

Our David Olson uncovered that Steele has a 1998 felony conviction for terrorizing — something he attributed to a drinking problem at the time — and a propensity to spend his time on Twitter looking at "images of nude and scantily dressed women," according to Olson's story.

Yet, despite this, Steele still managed to raise about a quarter of Christiansen's take during the April quarterly reporting period.

Steele raised $2,141.93 including $1,411.83 in itemized contributions and $730.10 out of his own pocket. He ended the reporting period with $379.73. He'll presumably use that money to try and win the Democratic-NPL nomination over Christiansen in June.

Now let's take a look at the U.S. House races, starting with the incumbent.

Kelly Armstrong

Congressman Kelly Armstrong
Congressman Kelly Armstrong addresses the North Dakota Republican Party's 2022 state convention in Bismarck on April 2, 2022.
Photo by Kyle Martin

Armstrong, the Republican incumbent, took in just over $217,000 in the April quarterly reporting period . That includes $85,900 in itemized individual contributions, just over $4,000 in itemized contributions, and $127,500 in contributions from political action committees.

Armstrong ended the reporting period with just over $540,000 in cash on hand, which is just a less than the more than $571,000 in cash he began the reporting period with.

That sort of turnover in campaign funds isn't unusual for House candidates who, given that they appear on that ballot every election cycle, are pretty much in perpetual campaign mode. They raise the money, they spend the money, and don't have the luxury of building up a large campaign treasure chest like their Senate colleagues with their six-year terms.

Mark Haugen

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Mark Haugen, a student advisor at the University of Mary in Bismarck, announces his candidacy for U.S. House of Representatives at the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party's state convention in Minot on Saturday, March 26, 2022.
Kyle Martin / The Forum

Mark Haugen is the Democratic-NPL candidate for the U.S. House. He'll run in the June primary unopposed for the nomination.

We don't actually know how much he raised in the April quarterly reporting period. Or, strike that, we at least know it's less than $5,000, because that's what the candidate told me when I spoke with him this morning.

"My campaign finance advisers said not to worry about filing a report until I hit the $5,000 threshold," he said. "That should be soon."

As Haugen explained on a recent episode of my podcast , he didn't decide to make a run for the House until he was at the Democratic-NPL state convention in Minot late last month. His nascent campaign is still establishing itself, though he told me he has sent out some fundraising asks and expects those to start paying dividends soon.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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