Mike Levin said small donations have paid off for him in a big way. The Southern California Democrat is part of a slew of swing-district candidates whose strong fundraising numbers experts consider an indicator the party has a shot of retaking the House of Representatives in November.
Levin, whose father is Jewish and whose mother’s parents emigrated from Mexico, raised $2.6 million since announcing his run in March 2017, more than three times what his Republican counterpart, Diane Harkey, has brought in. And he has the broad backing of over 100,000 small donors who gave an average of $26 each.
“I feel like we have a ton of momentum. No one is going to outwork us,” the candidate told the Forward. Harkey’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Candidacies like Levin’s are an example of powerful Democratic voter enthusiasm that has some respected analysts saying they have a solid chance at flipping the House. However, Republicans have their own advantages, including huge infusions of cash into several super PACs — political committees that can raise unlimited amounts of money, but can’t coordinate with candidates — from mega-donors like Jewish casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who gave $30 million to the GOP-linked Congressional Leadership Fund in May.
Levin is one of a crop of Democratic Jewish challengers in swing districts across the country who have significantly outraised their Republican counterparts, including several incumbents, in the last financial quarter, the Forward has found in a review of the latest crop of filings with the Federal Election Commission.
The group of ten Democrats, including Kathy Manning in North Carolina, Elissa Slotkin in Michigan, Susan Wild in Pennsylvania and Levin in Southern California, took in more than $7.8 million from April 1 through June 30, compared
14 to nearly $6 million their Republicans rivals brought in, FEC filings show.
The party needs to pick up 23 seats to gain a majority, which would put Democrats in a position to challenge President Trump in a way that Republicans have not. Two reputable non-partisan political forecasting firms say the Democrats could take back the House.
A near eight-point advantage in generic Congressional polling is a positive indicator for the party, Geoffrey Skelley, managing editor for the nonpartisan political forecaster Sabato’s Crystal Ball told the Forward, as is Trump’s approval ratings, which are hovering just north of 40%. The generic ballot is the percentage of voters in national surveys who say they intend to vote for either the “generic” Republican or Democrat in their district, if the race were being held the day the question was being asked, according to the Pew Research Center.
“Candidate fundraising definitely points to Democratic enthusiasm, especially in suburban districts where Democratic voters are looking for an outlet to vent their frustrations with the president,” said Leah Askarinam, a reporter/ analyst with the nonpartisan Inside Elections.
That organization, which is forecasting the Democrats pick up between 20 and 30 seats, said the fundraising hauls are especially important for candidates who are challenging incumbents.
“You need enough money for voters to know who you are and what your message is,” she said. “[That] could mean advertising on TV. Incumbents don’t need quite as much since they’ve already been on the ballot [and voters know their names].”
Of course, Republicans have their massive super PAC funds to deploy against the success Democrats have experienced in individual races, Askarinam said.
The analyst added the impact of Adelson’s money will be tested during an upcoming special election in the suburbs around Columbus, Ohio, with the CLF spending substantial funds on TV spots endorsing Republican Troy Balderson against Democrat Danny O’Connor.
Trump also tweeted his support for Balderson, further raising the stakes.
BIG PLANS: Mike Levin is a Southern California Democrat hoping to retake the House from the Republicans.