By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Incumbent U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss., has raised $22 for every $1 earned by his Democratic challenger, Brad Morris, since the start of the campaign.
It’s the largest fundraising disparity between 1st District congressional candidates since 2006, when then-six-term incumbent Roger Wicker outraised and outspent Democrat Ken Hurt by a margin of 72 to 1.
Morris has raised $73,692 so far, including $29,817 during the past three months. That’s double what he raised in the second quarter. But he loaned himself an even larger sum: $41,345 since July and $98,104 total since the start of the campaign.
The Democrat has spent $153,825 so far this race.
With a larger political machine behind him, Nunnelee has amassed more than $1.6 million during the same time, of which $230,598 came in during the third quarter. That’s about one-third more than he raised in the second quarter.
He has spent roughly $1.5 million so far this race.
Both candidates say voters – not money – ultimately will decide the election. They believe north Mississippi residents care more about issues like the economy, health care and gas prices than they do about campaign finances.
But money buys candidates’ time in front of their prospective voters. The more money, the bigger the audience.
Morris has a clear disadvantage in this area, said Marty Wiseman, executive director of Mississippi State University’s John C. Stennis Institute of Government.
“His weakness is obviously the weakness of the Democratic Party and their ability to raise money,” Wiseman said. “If Brad Morris had a strong party backing him and helping him raise money and putting boots on the ground, he would be a pretty serious threat.”
Mississippi Democratic Party Executive Director RIckey Cole disputed that view, saying Morris has enough funds to be competitive in the general election.
“They won’t be counting dollars on Nov. 6,” Cole said. “They’ll be counting votes.”
Campaign finance reports weren’t available on the FEC website for the three minor-party candidates running in the 1st Congressional District U.S. House race: Danny Bedwell of the Libertarian Party; Jimmie Ray Bourland of the Constitution Party and Chris Potts of the Reform Party.
Morris said he knew entering the race he would struggle to match his opponent’s funding levels. To compensate, he’s driving the district to personally deliver his message to as many voters as he can.
The Democrat also has failed to reach the funding levels of his former boss, then-U.S. Rep. Travis Childers.
Childers, for whom Morris was chief of staff and campaign manager, had raised nearly eight times as much at this point in his successful 2008 campaign and 22 times as much in his failed 2010 bid.
Childers lost to Nunnelee, who had nearly matched his war chest that year even though it was his first run for congressional office.
Now an incumbent, Nunnelee has raised even more, though he’s still about $25,000 shy of Childers’ fundraising efforts at this point two years ago.
Thirty-eight percent of the Republican’s contributions in the third quarter came from political action committees, including those established by Halliburton, Mississippi Power Co. and Wendy’s.
The rest came from individual donors, most of them Mississippi residents.
Morris got 17 percent of his contributions in the third quarter from PACs versus 83 percent from individuals.
The top contribution received by each candidate was $5,000.