Democratic Gov. Tim Walz has raised more than $1 million in 2022, dramatically outpacing the crowded Republican field of candidates hoping to unseat him in November.
Former state Sen. Scott Jensen, who led the GOP gubernatorial candidates in fundraising throughout 2021, has raised about $256,000 this year and had about $774,000 on hand at the end of March. Kendall Qualls' campaign has raised about $467,000 since entering the race in January, netting the largest fundraising haul of any GOP candidate this year; he currently has about $168,000 to spend.
Fundraising in the first quarter of 2022, detailed in reports released Friday, offers the first glimpse of how much candidates will have available to spend on TV and radio ads, mailers and organizing staff for the coming election season.
"Blessed is an understatement," Qualls said in a statement to supporters. "This number sends a message to Minnesotans and my opponents that I am the most qualified candidate to serve as Minnesota's next governor. Some candidates struggled to raise that number in six months."
Other Republican gubernatorial hopefuls reported a fraction of their competitors' first-quarter fundraising. Former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, who entered the race Feb. 1, has raised about $149,000. He's followed by state Sen. Paul Gazelka with about $99,000, Neil Shah with about $75,000 and state Sen. Michelle Benson, who has about $52,000.
Among the Republican front-runners, Gazelka follows Jensen with the most cash on hand — more than $400,000.
Walz is sitting on $4.1 million heading into his first re-election battle, a record cash-on-hand amount for any candidate for governor at this point in the election cycle, according to his campaign.
"Our campaign will have the resources necessary to reach voters in every corner of the state with our message of moving Minnesota forward and building 'One Minnesota,' " said Nichole Johnson, campaign manager for Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan.
Minnesota is a battleground state this fall; all of its constitutional offices, eight U.S. House seats and every member of the 201-seat Legislature are on the ballot. Far more money is expected to pour into critical state races from national and outside groups beyond what the candidates spend themselves.
Republicans have been shut out of every statewide election in Minnesota since 2010, but they're hopeful that low approval ratings for President Joe Biden and national headwinds for Democrats could help flip the governor's office Nov. 8.
Republican donors are divided among the more than a half-dozen GOP candidates in the race to challenge Walz. That field is expected to dramatically narrow after the party's endorsing convention in May. Early fundraising numbers could show who is gaining momentum.
Some of the other candidates running for governor did not submit first-quarter reports or reported as little as $1 raised.
Independent candidate Cory Hepola's campaign raised about $31,000 and has about $25,000 on hand. Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy, who is seeking the Republican endorsement, raised about $17,000 and has about $2,000 to spend.