Democrat Ben McAdams is close to taking Utah’s 4th Congressional District out of play in November by building an almost insurmountable cash advantage over the field of Republicans vying to replace him.
McAdams is seen as one of the most vulnerable Democrats in Congress representing a solidly Republican district. As has been reported ad nauseam, McAdams defeated Republican Mia Love by fewer than 700 votes in 2018. He is at or near the top of Republican targets for defeat in the 2020 election cycle.
But, ousting him will be a lot harder than it seems on paper.
According to pre-convention financial disclosures, McAdams has more than $2.2 million in his campaign account, which is more than 5 times the amount of cash the six Republicans in the race have on hand combined. McAdams has already raised 85 percent of his total fundraising for the 2018 race against Mia Love, and he still has six months to go until election day.
McAdams, who is facing a convention challenge from Daniel Beckstrand, raised $610,909 in the most recent fundraising period, leaving him $2.2 million on hand. Beckstrand, who has just $4,100 available, is a longshot to displace him at the Democratic convention next week.
There are six Republicans who are vying to make McAdams an ex-member of Congress in November, Three of them, Burgess Owens, Trent Christensen and Jay McFarland, have already qualified for the June primary ballot by submitting the required 7,000 signatures from Republican voters. The other three, Kathleen Anderson, Kim Coleman and Chris Biesinger, are seeking a spot in the primary election through delegate votes at the GOP state convention.
Owens raised the most during the most recent fundraising period, pulling in more than $213,000. However, he spent $219,000, which leaves him $92,812 in the bank.
Kathleen Anderson has the most cash available of the Republicans in the race, with $156,338 on hand. However, her campaign owes $222,744.
Kim Coleman pulled in $175,875 during the reporting period while spending $209,908. She has $115,084 heading into the state convention.
McFarland has $32,523 on hand, but his campaign reports a hefty $169,537 in debts.
Christensen, who joined the race late in March, raised just $21,575, but spent $80,876, leaving him $64,236 in the hole. He reports having just $4,400 on hand.
Biesinger’s shoestring campaign reports just $262 in the bank and $4,500 in debt before the convention.
It’s not clear when or if the eventual Republican nominee will be able to close the financial gap on McAdams even though the district is solidly Republican. Mia Love was able to raise $5.7 million for her unsuccessful 2018 race, but she already had a sophisticated bulk-mailing fundraising operation in place and was able to avoid a primary election. This year’s crop of Republican candidates doesn’t have any of those advantages available to them.
After this year’s GOP convention, at least three and possibly as many as five will have just over 60 days to campaign and fundraise for the June primary election. With that many candidates in the mix, the eventual nominee may be decided by a razor-thin margin, so financial could be a key factor.
The eventual nominee will then have to immediately shift their campaign to take on McAdams, who will be sitting on a multi-million dollar campaign war chest. The general election will be a 126-day sprint for the GOP candidate to try and catch up financially.
It’s not all gloom and doom for the eventual Republican nominee, though. If 2018 is any indication, there will be truckloads of outside money pouring into the state on both sides. In 2018, organizations not affiliated with either candidate spent nearly $3 million on the race to support and attack both Love and McAdams. You can expect the same, or more, to flow into Utah’s 4th District this year as the contest is one of the highest-profile on the map. Republican-aligned groups have already spent thousands of dollars on ads attacking McAdams. That spending will likely ramp up significantly as the election gets closer.
McAdams, who voted in favor of impeaching President Donald Trump due to the Ukraine scandal, saw his approval ratings fall 11 points after than. It remains to be seen whether voters in the 4th District will punish him for that vote in November.