The Democratic Governors Association will announce today that it raised more than $100 million for the 2018 midterm cycle, with $22.2 million of it coming in September — the largest haul ever for an organization that sometimes struggles for attention during battles for the House and Senate.
“This is a reflection of what I call the ‘great awakening’ of the Democratic family,” said Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington. “If we’re going to have a shot at the pathology of gerrymandering, we’ve got to win governors' races. And this is the only place where we can make progress — the states, where Donald Trump can’t stop us.”
From the start of 2017, the organization has raised roughly $103 million, a number that puts it behind the Republican Governors Association but ahead of where it has run in the past few cycles.
The DGA raised just $69 million in 2016, when it narrowly lost control of Missouri, New Hampshire and Vermont while picking up North Carolina. Last year, the surprise party switch of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) dropped the party to its lowest number of governors since the 1920s; the party recovered with the November 2017 victory of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D).
Most of the country’s executive offices are up in midterm years, however, and the DGA has historically lagged behind its Republican counterpart. The RGA cracked the $100 million mark early this summer and will report its best quarter ever later today, probably pushing its total closer to $140 million.
Still, Democrats argued that they’d made inroads, after years of trying, with donors who had been hard to win over for state campaigns. Reid Hoffman, the inventor of LinkedIn, gave $500,000 to the DGA, as did private equity CEO Vin Ryan. Phil Munger, a top donor to Barack Obama, put down $100,000, while Haim Saban, a Democratic mega-donor who has been critical of some left-wing Democrats on their approach to Israel, donated $50,000.
“In this age of Trump, we’ve got to take back power at the state level,” said Laura Lauder, a philanthropist who gave $100,000 to the DGA in the third quarter.
The DGA has also had to contend with the risk of donor fatigue, as several other groups have formed to emphasize its 2018 pitch: Wins this year can help the party break Republican-drawn maps for the next decade. After the 2016 election, former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder launched the National Democratic Redistricting Project, with the goal of raising at least $30 million to win control of governors' mansions or state legislatures where politicians still draw maps.
Democrats, with less to lose than Republicans, are optimistic about reversing years of defeats. They nominated independently wealthy candidates in three states where Republicans had threatened to outspend them — Colorado, Connecticut and Illinois. At the moment, they are favored to win in each state, while they no longer have to worry about a cash sink in Florida, where GOP nominee Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) lacks the personal wealth of Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.). That, they say, has allowed them to play across a larger map.
“We have these four or five more seats that nobody thought would be in play, and now they are,” Inslee said, citing South Dakota, Georgia, Kansas and Oklahoma as races that had stayed on the DGA’s map. Asked about the races in Maryland and Massachusetts, where Republicans seeking second terms are among the most popular governors in the country, Inslee said both situations were “fluid.”