WASHINGTON — Democrat Conor Lamb dominated fundraising efforts over Republican Rick Saccone, according to new campaign finance reports.
Lamb and Saccone are campaigning in the race to fill the open congressional seat in the 18th district.
The seat was vacated by Tim Murphy who resigned in scandal in October.
Both candidates had to file their first report of the campaign with the Federal Election Committee. The filing shows fundraising and spending by the campaign through Dec. 31.
Lamb, who is new to politics, won the fundraising race when looking at total contributions over Saccone, who is serving his fourth term in the State House.
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Modern elections are expensive and the campaigns need cash to hire field organizers to knock on doors and make phone calls, and to buy ads to reach voters.
Michael Beckel, campaign finance expert at Issue One, said those top-line numbers don't tell the story of outside money being pumped into the race.
“Outside groups, conservative super PACs and dark money groups have really helped buoy Republican Rick Saccone's campaign so while he and his campaign have been out-raised by Democrat Conor Lamb the outside groups have blown them both out of the water,” said Beckel.
One of those outside groups is the Congressional Leadership Fund — a super PAC closely tied to House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
CLF has spent more than$1.5 million on the race so far on paid door knockers and ads, among other expenditures.
Lamb is rejecting corporate super PAC donations and making that move central to his campaign.
He also has said he would not support current House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. Beckel said that could limit money he gets from groups tied to national party leadership.
“Depending on your relationship with the leadership and your relationship to those entities you might not have the same funds as someone else who is ready to walk hand in hand with their party leaders down the aisle,” said Beckel.
Beckel said about 70 percent of outside spending in the race has been on attack ads predominately targeting Lamb.
Lamb’s campaign manager, Abby Murphy, tells Channel 11 News the fundraising report shows the campaign has the resources to “prevail against all the murky outside groups trying to obscure what this race is out.”
Lamb isn't without any support from national Democrats, though. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, DCCC, made a $236,000 tv ad buy in support of Lamb last week.
A theme in other recent special elections has been about the divide between in state and out of state donations.
Most donations to the Lamb campaign came from in-state totaling $127,000.
Lamb received about $112,000 from out-of-state donations.
More of Saccone’s donors came from within the state but he got more money, $121,000, from out-of-state donors versus about $80,000 from in-state donations.
Saccone campaign manager Patrick Geho said, "Rick will have the resources needed to continue telling his story and win in March."
The special election is March 13.