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Kentucky Democratic Party has more money than Republicans heading into governor’s race

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FRANKFORT — Just as Democrat Andy Beshear has built a big fundraising lead over his Republican rivals for governor, the Kentucky Democratic Party has amassed a much bigger warchest than the Republican Party of Kentucky at the outset of this gubernatorial election year.

In disclosures filed with campaign finance regulators this week, the Kentucky Democratic Party reported having nearly $4.7 million on hand when balances of its state and federal committees are combined.

That compares to a combined balance of just under $1.8 million on hand reported by the Republican Party of Kentucky for its state and federal committees.

The Democratic Party’s efforts were boosted by a wave of big contributions made in December of last year.

Sebastian Kitchen, executive director of the KDP attributed the Democrats’ fundraising success in 2022 to Beshear’s popularity. “A majority of Kentuckians want four more years of his strong, steady leadership that shattered economic development records while leading us through unprecedented challenges,” Kitchen said in a statement.

But the RPK says it has a much lower balance than Democrats now because it spent the vast amount of what it raised last year to successfully do what it planned to do last year — elect Republicans. “It appears the Democrats have a different view,” said Sean Southard, director of communications for the RPK. “Last year, the Democrats largely chose to hoard funds and not spend to support their candidates in the state legislature or Charles Booker,” the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate who lost to incumbent Republican Rand Paul.

In addition to the big edge in cash held by his political party, reports filed last month show Beshear’s re-election campaign fund holds more money than all of the many Republican candidates for governor combined.

Last month Beshear’s campaign reported he had $4.7 million on hand. By comparison the Republican who reported having the most on hand last month was Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, whose campaign balance stood at $874,000. Among Republicans, former United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft had raised the most, according to the most recent reports, but had spent $1 million of the $1.3 million she reported having raised.

Moreover, Beshear faces no serious challenge in the May primary, while Republicans will spend everything they can raise to win their own party primary.

Circumstances will be different in the general election, however. Super PACs that can accept contributions of unlimited amounts will pour millions into independent advertising campaigns for each side. The winner of the Republican primary — in a state that has trended Republican for decades — is not likely to be under-funded in the fall.

The numbers

The RPK and the KDP on Tuesday each filed two disclosure reports: one for its committee registered with the Federal Election Commission listing its contributions and expenses for the last month of 2022; the other for its committee registered with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance covering its contributions and expenses for the last six months of 2022.

Within its two reports, the KDP listed a bit over $1.3 million in contributions by named individuals, and a bit over $110,000 in contributions from political action committees.

In its two reports, the RPK listed $246,000 in contributions by individuals and $194,000 from PACs.

Big Democratic contributions

The Republicans reported no givers during the periods covered who gave the maximum of $15,000 that any person can give to a state party over the course of a year. However, the Democrat reports listed 50 givers who gave the maximum $15,000 each. And all of these contributions came in December of 2022.

Here are the names of those who gave $15,000 each to the Democratic Party in December:

Douglas Asher II, Wallins Creek, attorney

Laurence N. Benz, Louisville, Confluent Health, executive

Patricia G. Benz, Louisville, Confuluent Health, physical therapist

Steven B. Bowler, Hudson, MA, Two Abigail Consulting, president

Garvin Brown IV, Louisville, Brown-Forman, executive

Laura Lee Brown, Louisville, retired

Victoire Brown, San Francisco, Calif., self employed

William C. Carstanjen, Prospect, Churchill Downs, president

Michael F. Dudgeon Jr., Midway, Investors Heritage, vice president

Edward Fields, Jackson, Wyo., Community Wellness, executive

Zoe Fields, Jackson, Wyo., Community Wellness, co-founder

Ashley Gray, London, Hometown Bank, manager

James P. Gray II, Lexington, Transportation Cabinet secretary

Robert Gray, London, WB Transport, manager

Terry W. Green, Sugarland, Texas, accountant

Paul J. Guastello Jr., Kansas City, Mo., St. Pius, consultant

Michael Hacker, Gray, WB Transport, consultant

Augusta Brown Holland, Louisville, entrepreneur

John Gill Holland Jr., Louisville, entrepreneur

Pamela L. Klinner, Prospect, cpa

David Christopher Kloiber, Lexington, Kloiber Foundation, CEO

Maria Koutourousiou, Louisville, Kentucky One Health, physician

Franklin T. Lassiter, Midway, HealthTech Solutions, COO

George B. Lassiter, Lexington, Pomeroy, project manager

Mary E. Lassiter, Midway, retired

Lisa Lourie, West Palm Beach, Fla., Spy Coast Farm, owner

Caden McAdams, Corbin, WB Transport, manager

Chrystal McAdams, Corbin, Indiana Travel Nurses, nurse

William Louis McMahan, Glenview, investor

Laveda Motley, Olympia, homemaker

Mary E. Niehaus, Falcon Heights, Minn., HealthTech Solutions, graphic design consultant

Alicia Owens, Indianapolis, Ind., Marriott, manager

David Owens, Keavy, Envious, manager

Lanola Lawson Parsons, Harlan, Harlan Gun and Pawn, owner

Jennifer Schacht, Las Vegas, Nev., teacher

Theodore Sedgwick, Marshall, Va., retired

Colleen H. Swartz, Winchester, UK Medical Center, director

Mark A. Swartz, Winchester, Schwartz Enterprises, president

Mike Swartz, Olympia, Swartz Construction, owner

Duane D. Wall, New York, N.Y., White and Case, attorney

Alexis Weddle, London, student

Carmen Weddle, Gray, retired

Jennifer Weddle, Corbin, The Depot on Main, owner

Lisa Weddle, Knoxville, Tenn., Envious, owner

Nicholas Weddle, London, FH Trading, manager

Victoria Weddle, Keavy, Mad Hatter Diesel, CFO

Steve Wilson, Louisville, 21C Museum Hotels, CEO

Joan Winchell, Las Vegas, Nev., retired

Kristen Winchell, Las Vegas, Nev., investor

Mark J. Zinselmeier, Community Wellness, COO

This story was originally published by the Kentucky Lantern.

Tom Loftus is a native of Cincinnati and a graduate of The Ohio State University. His long career in Kentucky journalism includes four years as Frankfort bureau chief for The Kentucky Post and 32 years as Frankfort bureau chief for The Courier Journal. He is a member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame and a freelance reporter for the Kentucky Lantern.
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