Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola outraised Republican challengers by around $2 million in September, according to recent Federal Election Commission filings, continuing a surge of fundraising that began after she was elected in the August special U.S. House election.
Peltola, a former state lawmaker from Bethel who until this year was relatively unknown throughout the state, was elected to carry out the term previously held by the late U.S. Rep. Don Young by defeating two Republican opponents: businessman Nick Begich III and former Gov. Sarah Palin. Ahead of the special election, Peltola was far outspent by her rivals.
Now as an incumbent, she is again running against Begich and Palin, along with Libertarian Chris Bye, in the regularly scheduled Nov. 8 election to determine who will hold the seat for the two-year term beginning in January. And in this race, Peltola’s fundraising is well ahead of her competitors, according to new filings.
By the end of July, Peltola had raised less than $380,000 — far less than Palin’s haul of around $1 million and Begich’s sum of $1.18 million, which included a $650,000 loan he had made to his campaign.
But in the months since then, Peltola — the first Alaska Native elected to Congress — has gained support from congressional leaders, Native tribes and organizations, and national labor groups, translating into a boost in contributions from both small-dollar donors and deep-pocket benefactors.
Peltola raised around $2.3 million in the 24-day reporting period, bringing her fundraising so far to $3.6 million and leaving her with $2.2 million to spend in the final six weeks before the November election.
Peltola’s sum is 10 times what Palin raised in the same period. Palin brought in around $230,000 and had $140,000 in the bank at the end of September. Begich brought in less than $60,000 and had under $550,000 in the bank, in great part thanks to the $650,000 loan he made to his campaign earlier in the election cycle.
Counting Begich’s personal loan to his campaign, he has raised a total of around $1.5 million since launching his bid for office — about the same as Palin had raised and less than half of Peltola’s total sum.
Bye, the Libertarian candidate, raised $1,400 in September, for a total of $7,500 since launching his campaign.
In a prepared statement, Begich pinned Peltola’s fundraising numbers on “Hollywood elites and liberal democrats from other states.” Almost $270,000 of Peltola’s haul came from donors with an Alaska address. More than $1 million came from out-of-state contributors. Around $900,000 of Peltola’s contributions are not itemized, meaning they came from donors that gave less than $200.
Peltola is also benefiting from political action committees spending money to boost her candidacy. Among them, a new PAC called Vote Alaska Before Party that lists one sole contributor — the Sealaska Native Corp. — which gave $90,000 in late September.
A separate PAC, the Peltola Victory Fund, formed in September, has $75,000 to spend ahead of the election, including $25,000 from U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Alaskans for Bristol Bay Action, a super PAC that opposes Pebble Mine, is spending $600,000 from the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a left-leaning dark money group, to support Peltola and Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the U.S. Senate race.
Palin’s campaign is also buoyed by PAC money. The Patriot Freedom PAC, which hosted an event in Anchorage earlier this month and is supporting both Palin and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka, raised $200,000 in the last quarter, for a total of $390,000 since forming earlier this year. The PAC is funded by a single donor – Caryn Borland.
Borland has shared social media content related to QAnon, a conspiracy theory that includes baseless, farfetched allegations about liberals and satanism and child sex trafficking. In 2020, the revelation that Caryn and her husband Michael Borland are supporters of the conspiracy theory led to the cancellation of a Montana fundraiser. Tshibaka, who is backed by former President Donald Trump, declined an invitation to attend the PAC’s event earlier this month. Palin accepted the invitation and spoke at the sparsely attended rally.
Peltola’s fundraising advantage is translating to an advertising advantage in the final weeks before the election: her campaign spent in September more than $550,000 on media buys, $80,000 on printing, and $70,000 on advertising. Palin spent around $36,000 on radio ads and $6,500 on digital advertising. Begich spent $21,000 on radio advertising and under $7,000 on other advertising costs.
Most of Begich’s campaign donations come from Alaskans, while most of Palin’s donations came from outside the state. It’s a reflection of how the two candidates are spending their time with less than a month to go before the election. Begich has been focusing on events in the conservative-leaning enclaves of the state, including appearances at the Outdoor Council banquet in Palmer, a fight night in Anchorage, and a Catholic schools fundraiser in Fairbanks.
Palin spent several days in New York City conducting interviews with national news outlets and attending a hockey game with her boyfriend Ron Duguay, a retired professional hockey player. In at least one of the interviews, Palin’s congressional bid never came up — she was introduced as Alaska’s former governor and didn’t mentioned her own campaign.
Meanwhile, Peltola has made recent campaign stops in Anchorage, Ketchikan and Sitka. Peltola’s support stretches the political spectrum. She received thousands of dollars from the leadership PACs associated with House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She is also benefiting from the support of people who once were in the orbit of Young – the Republican 49-year Congressman who died in March.
Several former Young staffers are hosting a virtual fundraiser under the title of “friends of 2314″ — a reference to the office number of the Capitol Hill space once occupied by Young and now occupied by Peltola — in “celebration of her commitment to bipartisanship and Congressman Don Young’s legacy,” the invitation says.