Across six battleground states with secretary of state elections this year — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, and Wisconsin — there has been a massive increase in campaign cash. In each of these states, 2022 candidates have raised more money than in any cycle since 2010.
These totals reflect the most recent data available for the 2022 cycle and data reflecting the closest analogous date for past cycles. There are different reporting schedules in different states and cycles. In 2022, the latest available data covers the period ending on March 31 in Arizona, Minnesota, and Nevada and April 30 in Georgia. In past cycles, the closest analogous filing period has ended on March 31 in Georgia and Minnesota, either March 31 or May 31 in Arizona, and varying dates in late May in Nevada. In Michigan and Wisconsin, the most recent data for this cycle covers a period ending on December 31, 2021, and our comparison to past cycles also goes through December 31 of the year before the election.
Total fundraising in the open-seat race for Arizona’s secretary of state has topped $3 million, almost double the amount raised by this stage of 2018 and four times that of 2014.
In the lead with more than $900,000 is State Rep. Mark Finchem (R), who has centered his campaign on calls to “decertify” the election that he claims “Trump won.” Advertising executive Beau Lane (R) is close behind, having raised over $860,000, followed by Democrats Adrian Fontes (about $480,000) and Reginald Bolding (about $380,000), who has said that Finchem “is set on dismantling, disrupting, and destroying our democracy.”
National liberal group MoveOn reported spending $1.4 million in independent expenditures opposing Finchem. MoveOn emails describe Finchem as a “supporter of the Big Lie.”
Overall, fundraising in the secretary of state race has topped $6 million, three times more than by this point in 2018.
Rep. Jody Hice (R), who has said that “Trump won Georgia,” has the lead in fundraising in his primary challenge to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R). Hice raised more than $620,000 in the first quarter of 2022, bringing his total to $2.2 million. Raffensperger, who said that Hice has been spreading “disinformation,” has raised $1.8 million. The third leading candidate, with $1.3 million in donations, is state Rep. Bee Nguyen (D), who has emailed supporters warning of the possibility that “the next person to oversee our elections literally called the results of the 2024 election into question if the outcome didn’t suit their party.”
In the week before the primary, two outside groups aired pro-Raffensperger TV ads. A spot from one, a Georgia committee called Conservatives for Our Future, shows footage of what appear to be violent protests as the narrator says, “The radical left will do anything to turn our state blue.” The ad goes on to show Raffensperger saying, “Stacy Abrams is suing us so she can put non-citizens on the voter rolls, and I’m the only one stopping her.” The other group, a super PAC called Americans Keeping Country First, was formed last year to support Republicans who voted to impeach or convict Trump; it has not been active in Georgia elections before. Neither group has yet filed reports with the state revealing details about the amounts spent or contributions received for this election cycle.
The Michigan secretary of state contest is now in the general election phase with Republicans’ nomination of Kristina Karamo, who has questioned the 2020 election and run ads saying Republicans need to “secure our elections” because “the road to the White House runs directly through Michigan.” In November, Karamo will face the incumbent, Jocelyn Benson, who has said “election deniers . . . want to take over statewide offices so they can potentially be in a position to block or undo or fail to certify election results.”
The latest data available, through the end of December, shows Benson with an overwhelming fundraising lead. Her $1.6 million has driven funding in the race to three times the amount at the same point in the 2018 cycle. Donor interest has surged, with over 7,000 donors giving to secretary of state candidates this cycle, almost five times the number in the 2018 cycle. Money coming from out of state has spiked as well, and the almost $475,000 from outside Michigan is three and a half times more than 2018.
A group called Progress Michigan has been running Facebook ads praising Benson, saying she is “standing up against right-wing extremists and their attempts to overturn the will of voters,” and she ran “the most secure election in MI history.” The expenditures on these ads do not appear in state campaign finance filings, likely because they do not explicitly call for voters to elect Benson.
In Minnesota, secretary of state candidate fundraising through March is more than $650,000, a high since 2010. The lion’s share of this year’s amount has gone to Secretary of State Steve Simon (D), who has said the election “was fundamentally fair, accurate, honest, and secure.”
Simon has been the fundraising leader in every election since he first ran in 2014. His 2022 haul of $520,000 is more than all the secretary candidates put together at this point in each of the last three cycles. It gives him a commanding fundraising lead over the less than $90,000 collected by his closest rival, Kim Crockett (R), who has questioned the results of the 2020 election.
Donations to Nevada secretary of state candidates have exploded this cycle to $1.8 million, almost four times the amounts at analogous points in the past three cycles.
Two clear fundraising leaders have emerged in Nevada’s open-seat race with almost $700,000 each: Cisco Aguilar (D), who has said “extremists who allege that the 2020 elections were rigged . . . are a threat to our democracy,” and Jesse Haw (R), whose campaign TV ads have the tag line “It’s time to secure our elections.” The fundraising totals through the end of March for Aguilar and Haw each rival the record for highest fundraising since 2010, which was Kate Marshall in 2014 with $718,000 for the entire cycle. The other major hauls so far this cycle are approximately $179,000 for Jim Marchant (R), who has said the 2020 election was “stolen,” and about $153,000 for Richard Scotti (R), who claims of Dominion voting machines: “the data they record in the evening is never the same in the morning.”
Marchant has organized the America First Secretary of State Coalition and an affiliated unlimited-contribution PAC, Conservatives for Election Integrity (CFEI PAC). Its website describes its mission as nationwide fundraising for secretary of state candidates to pursue the coalition’s goals of “Voter Integrity” and to “Counter and Reverse electoral fraud.” The site also states that Marchant “is convinced he only lost because of election fraud and widespread election irregularities.” The PAC has raised almost $110,000. More than 80 percent of the funding for CFEI PAC came from the America Project, an “election integrity” organization that helped fund the review of the 2020 vote in Maricopa County, Arizona. (The America Project is discussed in greater detail below.) CFEI PAC’s largest expenditure was a $10,000 contribution to Marchant’s campaign.
In Wisconsin, the secretary of state does not administer elections. The Wisconsin Elections Commission, like elections administrators in many states, has been attacked over the 2020 elections. There has been a push, including by several declared candidates for secretary of state or governor, to give the secretary of state greater power over elections.
The most recent data available, through the end of December, shows a huge spike in contributions to secretary of state candidates, almost $76,000, compared to less than $9,000 in recent years. This is almost entirely driven by Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R), a six-term member of the state assembly who is campaigning on giving the secretary of state more power, saying that an elected official should act as a “check” on the appointed Wisconsin Elections Commission.
In April, local Democratic Party leader Alexia Sabor announced a primary challenge to 10-term incumbent Doug La Follette (D), whose campaign announcement said other candidates “have proposed stealing power over elections and concentrating them in the office in the hopes that they can use it to tilt the results of the next presidential election.”