By Katie Akin, Iowa Capital Dispatch
Incumbent Gov. Kim Reynolds raised 13 times more than her leading Democratic competitor in 2021.
Reynolds raised nearly $3.8 million in 2021 for her re-election bid, her campaign announced. She has about $4.8 million cash on hand – a new state record, according to the campaign.
“I am so grateful for the generous support Iowans from all corners of our state have given me,” Reynolds said in a campaign news release. “With their strong support, the best is yet to come.”
Republican leaders in the state heralded Reynolds’ fundraising as a sign of strong party support.
“This number shows what I have seen on the ground for a long time now: Iowans are excited to re-elect Gov. Reynolds to a second term,” said Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann.
Reynolds has not officially announced her campaign for re-election.
Deidre DeJear, a Des Moines Democrat and former secretary of state candidate, is the leading contender to take on Reynolds in 2022. DeJear raised $279,000 between the time she formed an exploratory committee in July 2021 until the end of the year.
As of Jan. 1, 2022, DeJear’s campaign had $8,500 on hand. But DeJear told the Iowa Capital Dispatch that she doesn’t “believe that money can buy people.”
DeJear pointed toward her 2018 primary win in the secretary of state race, saying her Democratic opponent was better-known and better-funded. DeJear also criticized Reynolds’ leadership record.
“That’s a big number, 4.8 million,” DeJear said. “Good for her. But needless to say, what our campaign is going to do is be good for people.”
Rep. Ras Smith, a Waterloo Democrat, left the gubernatorial race earlier this month, citing issues with fundraising. In a December column for Bleeding Heartland, Smith wrote that he was “treated as insignificant by the donor class of my own party.”
“After months of phone calls, letters, repeated outreach, to not receive a call back or be given an opportunity to meet has felt disrespectful,” Smith wrote.
When asked about her experience with Democrat donors, DeJear said there were other major financial priorities for the party in 2021 — controversial school board and city council races, or supporting President Joe Biden with federal campaigns.
Despite the fundraising shortfall, DeJear spoke optimistically about turnout numbers in 2018 and 2020, and the existence of Democratic-leaning unregistered voters in the state.
“Even though some of the rhetoric says that the current incumbent is unbeatable, the numbers don’t suggest that,” she said. “And I believe so much in my party… that I know we’ve got the potential to make this thing happen.”
Democrat donations for 2022 pale compared to 2018 campaigns
The 2018 gubernatorial race saw significantly higher donations in the year ahead of the election.
In 2017, incumbent Reynolds reported $3.7 million raised. Her leading Democratic opponent (and eventually primary winner) Fred Hubbell raised over $3 million.
The 2018 cycle saw a much more crowded race than 2022. Five Democrats were contending for the nomination, and Republican Ron Corbett mounted a primary challenge against Reynolds.
DeJear in 2021 raised less than the lowest-raising Democratic competitor in 2017.