Maine is more than a year away from electing a new Legislature in 2016, but the partisan campaigns for both chambers are gearing up, raising more than $500,000 through September.
Nearly 82 percent — or $429,000 — of that $524,000 haul is from Democrats, according to records filed with the Maine Ethics Commission. They’re well ahead of their fundraising pace at this time in 2013, when they raised $243,000.
Senate Democrats are leading the way so far, raising $247,000 through September. But House Democrats aren’t far behind, raising $182,000. Both campaigns were bolstered by $110,000 contributions from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, a group supporting legislative campaigns across the country.
Typically, Republicans lag Democrats in spending on legislative races in Maine, and that’s no different now: They’ve raised a combined $94,000 in both chambers.
The Senate Republicans have raising $54,000, which lags their $77,000 total in 2013. At $41,000, House Republicans are a shade ahead of their $36,000 pace two years ago.
The money raised by the House and Senate efforts alters elections in two main ways: It can support more coordinated party campaigns or go to support or oppose candidates via TV advertisements or mail drives.
For example, the Maine Democratic State Committee, run by the Maine Democratic Party, was the biggest outside spender in 2014 legislative races among political action and party committees at $732,000. Large portions of money raised by the Senate and House Democratic efforts went there.
The chambers are both on a knife’s edge: At a 20-15 disadvantage in the Senate, Democrats must only swing three seats to win, and they’re only 10 seats ahead of Republicans in the House.
Early fundraising figures are a sign that Democrats are redoubling an effort to advance their position in 2016, which is a presidential year certain to bring heavy turnout, which usually favors Democrats. The battlegrounds where much of this money will be spent should emerge early next year.