BY BRYAN LOWRY
State Sen. Barbara Bollier raised $2.35 million during the first three months of 2020 in her quest to become the first Kansas Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate since 1932.
The Mission Hills Democrat, who left the Republican party at the end of 2018 because of opposition to President Donald Trump, more than doubled her fundraising in the fourth quarter of 2019, when she collected $1.17 million. It puts her six-month take at roughly $3.5 million.
Bollier’s strong showing will likely fuel national Republicans’ anxieties about the race to replace retiring GOP Sen. Pat Roberts.
Candidates in the crowded Republican field have struggled to raise money and efforts by GOP leaders to lure Secretary of State Mike Pompeo into the race were unsuccessful.
“It’s clear that Barbara’s historic candidacy is resonating with folks across Kansas who want a doctor and an independent voice of reason representing them in the U.S. Senate. Momentum is on our side, and we will continue working hard to serve the people of Kansas,” said Bollier campaign spokeswoman Alexandra De Luca.
But Bollier, a retired anesthesiologist, has also spent money at a rapid rate.
She has spent more than $1 million since entering the race last October and had roughly $2.34 million cash on hand at the end of March, according to her finance report that will be filed with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday.
On the Republican side, political newcomer Bob Hamilton raised $156,050 in two days after launching his campaign in the final week of March. The founder of Bob Hamilton Plumbing, he also loaned himself $2 million.
“I invested my own money in this campaign because I believe in Kansas, and like the President, I know what it will take to rebuild our economy and defend our values so the next generation can live the American Dream,” Hamilton, a Miami County businessman, said in a statement.
Bollier leads the entire field in cash even with Hamilton’s self-funding.
U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, a Republican who represents western Kansas, raised roughly $377,00 for the quarter and has nearly $1.95 million cash on hand. The bulk of his money for the quarter came in January when Pompeo’s decision to forgo the race became public.
Marshall’s campaign had said at the time that it had raised more than $200,000 in a three-day period, but he did not maintain that level of fundraising through the quarter to establish himself as a frontrunner after speculation about Pompeo subsided.
Marshall campaign spokesman Eric Pahls pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason the fundraising plateaued after January, saying in a text message that Marshall canceled several major fundraising event in March due to health and safety concerns.
“Despite this crisis, we still earned the support of 700 first-time donors, and have the highest total raised in this (Republican) primary by a mile,” Pahls said in a text message.
Bollier’s impressive haul for the quarter— a record for a Senate candidate in Kansas of either party — coincides with polling that shows her in a dead heat in a possible matchup with Kris Kobach, the GOP’s 2018 nominee for governor and a former Kansas secretary of state.
Kobach has struggled to keep pace in fundraising. For the quarter, Kobach pulled in more than $242,000, a little more than a tenth of Bollier’s total, and he had about $317,000 cash on hand.
Bollier led Kobach 44 percent to 42 percent in head to head matchup in a survey of 1,271 Kansas voters conducted April 13 and 14 by Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm.
The poll was paid for by 314 Action, a group that works to elect professionals in the math and science fields to office.
Bollier’s lead is within the margin of error of +/- 2.8 %, but her strengths in both fundraising and early polls could put the Kansas Senate seat in play for the first time in decades.
National Republicans have voiced concerns about Kobach’s candidacy since last year, but National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez pushed back on the notion that the Kansas seat is at risk.
“We remain confident Kansas will re-elect President Trump and their next Republican senator this fall,” Rodriguez said in a text message.
The poll did not test Bollier against any of the other Republican candidates in the field. The poll found that a generic Republican would lead a generic Democrat by 50 percent to 40 percent in the GOP-leaning state.
Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, raised roughly $101,000 for the quarter and has roughly $515,000 cash on hand, according to Wagle campaign spokesman Matt Beynon.
Wagle’s campaign accused Bollier of prioritizing her Senate run over her work in the Kansas Legislature.
“Liberal donors from around the country clearly rewarded Senator Bollier, sadly she needed to abandon the people of Kansas and skip out on her work in Topeka to pick up the checks,” Beynon said in an email.
In Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, incumbent Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids raised $541,000 for the quarter and has $1.86 million cash on hand. The Kansas freshman’s seat in the Kansas City suburbs is a top target for national Republicans.
Amanda Adkins, a former Kansas Republican chair running for the seat, raised more than $230,000 for the first three months of 2020 and has roughly $490,000 cash on hand, according to her campaign. Another Republican contender Sara Hart Weir, the former president of the National Down Syndrome Society, raised $164,000 for the quarter and has roughly $404,000, according to her campaign.
The GOP primary race also features former Roeland Park Mayor Adrienne Vallejo-Foster and businessman Mike Beehler.