Kari Lake’s fundraising puts her behind in Arizona Senate race

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Kari Lake raised more money challenging the results of her last election than she did running for a new one.

Lake, a MAGA darling, launched her Arizona Senate bid last October with much fanfare — and a video cameo from Donald Trump — but ended 2023 with relatively little money in the bank. She raised $2 million in the roughly 11 weeks after she entered the race, but she quickly spent nearly half that haul.

That left her starting 2024 with a little over $1 million in the bank — and $308,000 in debt.

Those numbers are low for a frontrunner in a major Senate race. And they mean Lake entered the 2024 election year far behind her major competitors: Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who hasn’t yet decided on a reelection bid, started the year with close to $11 million in her coffers, and Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego, who launched in January 2023, had almost $7 million in the bank.

A Lake campaign official said the debt stems from invoices that came toward the end of the quarter and will be repaid quickly.

“Kari Lake had one of the strongest fundraising quarters of any GOP challenger. She is consolidating support with Arizonans and has cleared the field in the primary,” said Garrett Ventry, senior Lake adviser. “Kari is well positioned to win in November, as she is beating her Democrat opponents in the last three polls.”

The fourth quarter of 2023 was Lake’s first as a federal candidate. But she is a known entity in Arizona and beyond. She has high name identification both from her career as a local TV anchor and from a previous statewide run. She also has a strong standing with a small-dollar MAGA donor base that previously helped her amass a large war chest.

Lake lost her bid for Arizona governor in 2022 by less than one point to Democrat Katie Hobbs and vehemently denied the results. As Lake dragged out unsuccessful litigation for months after the election — claiming that the race was rigged against her — she raised more than $2.5 million to support that effort.

She cultivated close ties to Trump and his allies in that failed bid and maintained prominence among the far-right wing of the Republican Party. Lake acted as a surrogate for Trump’s presidential bid and sparked speculation that she could be on the shortlist for his vice president pick.

That MAGA-favorite status didn’t translate to fundraising. Lake will need to raise far more in the months ahead to be competitive in what is sure to be an extremely expensive race.

Arizona is a critical battleground in 2024 for races up and down the ballot. Millions of dollars from outside groups are expected to pour in, and a campaign’s financial standing at this juncture lays the groundwork for the costly election later this year.

Gallego has six times more cash-on-hand than Lake, and outraised her by more than $1 million. He brought in $3.3 million in Q4, his second-highest quarter behind his opening quarter. Sinema has a massive war chest to work with if she decides to get in — nearly 10 times as large as Lake’s. But Sinema’s fundraising quarter was also weak; she raised just under $600,000 at the end of 2023.

Lake’s Senate campaign spent more than $400,000 on a range of payments related to direct mail, including $285,000 on postage. Her campaign also spent $93,000 on fundraising consulting.

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