The Potluck

Minnesota candidates splurge campaign funds in final days before election

By: - November 1, 2022 5:05 pm

Photo illustration by Getty Images

Minnesota’s candidates for statewide office are making their final spending pushes ahead of the general election next week, according to Tuesday’s final batch of campaign finance reports.

DFL Gov. Tim Walz raised nearly $5.7 million during 2022, and spent $8.56 million — with the addition of the funds he raised last year. His Republican challenger, former state Sen. Scott Jensen, raised almost $4.4 million this year, spending about $4.8 million including last year’s balance.

Tuesday’s filings are the last reports released to the public before Election Day on Nov. 8. Candidates and political action committees are spending millions to make last-minute appeals to voters through advertisements and canvassing. Out-of-state groups backed by corporations, wealthy individuals and labor unions are also spending millions hoping to help either party achieve dominance in one of the most closely divided state governments in the country.

The D.C.-based Republican Attorneys General Association, for instance, is funding last-minute advertisements against DFL Attorney General Keith Ellison and for GOP candidate Jim Schultz through the political action committee MN for Freedom. 

Some of the largest contributions to the Republican Attorneys General Association in 2020 were from energy companies, like Koch Industries and Ariel Corp., and businesses such as Walmart and Blue Cross Blue Shield, according to 

From Sept. 16 to Oct. 24, the group Republican Attorneys General Association gave the MN for Freedom committee more than $2 million. Most of the funds, about $1.8 million, have been spent on television and print advertising against Ellison, while the rest was invested in pro-Schultz advertising. 

Ellison raised over $1.5 million in 2022, while Schultz received $1.1 million. 

The D.C.-based Republican Governors Association last week gave $750,000 to the committee Heal Minnesota and have run a debunked TV ad seeking to tie Walz to the defund police movement. 

The majority of Walz’s spending, about $4.7 million, was to purchase “media,” though the filings didn’t specify what kind. The campaign also spent about $1.4 million on “digital media” throughout 2022.

Jensen spent about $1.7 million on television ads, in addition to hundreds of thousands on internet, radio and billboard advertisements. The Chaska family physician slightly outraised Walz over the past month by about $100,000. 

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon far outraised his Republican challenger Kim Crockett this year. Simon’s $1.2 million raised is over four times as much money as Crockett’s $360,000. 

DFL State Auditor Julie Blaha has raised about $250,000 to her GOP challenger Ryan Wilson’s $242,000. Wilson’s contributions are almost all from himself — over $213,000.

All 201 legislative seats are also up for grabs. Republicans have a narrow majority in the state Senate, while Democrats have a tenuous hold on the House. This is the first election following redistricting and a wave of retirements, which means the election battle comprises dozens of open seats and some incumbents having to introduce themselves to an entirely new set of voters.

Control of the Legislature will come with a big prize: Setting the two-year budget of $55 billion or more when lawmakers convene in January.  

Democrats have the fundraising upper hand going into the home stretch.

The House DFL caucus raised nearly $6.5 million in 2022 compared to the Republicans’ $1.9 million. Democrats are attempting to flip the state Senate, with the DFL caucus raising nearly $6 million this year to the GOP’s $2 million.

One of the richest political action committees is the DFL-aligned Alliance for a Better Minnesota, which has raised over $15.4 million dollars in 2022. The group has spent more than $13.3 million in online and television ads against Jensen. More than $6.6 million is from the D.C.-based Democratic Governors Association’s political arm.

According to the state’s 24-hour notices of large contributions, candidates and political action committees are receiving millions from out-of-state sources. 

Here are some notable donations: A $500,000 donation to Alliance for a Better Minnesota from the D.C.-based committee Democratic Action; a $250,000 donation from New York City physician Lisa Primus to the Democratic Governors Association Victory Fund; and, a $200,000 contribution to the MN Police PAC from the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association.

Philanthropist Alida Rockefeller Messinger, who was married to former Gov. Mark Dayton, has donated more than $1.6 million to various DFL campaigns and committees. The public employees union AFSCME has given over $850,000 to DFL causes, and Stanley Hubbard, CEO and chairman of Hubbard Broadcasting, which owns KSTP, has donated over $180,000 to various Republican campaigns and groups this year.

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Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues. For two years she was also a corps member with Report for America, a national nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms and news deserts. She lives in St. Paul and likes to knit and watch documentaries in her free time.