Has Tennant 'Peaked' In W.Va. Senate Race? Big Money May Be Moving On

Republican Shelley Moore Capito raised more than $1.3 million between April and June this year, outpacing her Democratic rival, Natalie Tennant, by over a half-million dollars. The two candidates for West Virginia’s open Senate seat released their second-quarter fundraising totals on Tuesday, a week ahead of the July 15 reporting deadline.

Capito, who represents the Mountain State’s 2nd district in the U.S. House, and Tennant, West Virginia’s secretary of state, are vying to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) in the November election.

Tennant raised about $777,000 during the second quarter, well behind Capito’s three-month haul.

More ominous for Tennant, though, is the pace of her — and her rival’s — fundraising operations.

Tennant’s second-quarter total actually dropped by about $20,000 from her first-quarter take of $794,000. Capito, meanwhile, who raised $818,000 in the first quarter of this year, saw her fundraising total surge by close to $500,000.

The picture doesn’t brighten much for the Democrat when looking at the two campaigns’ overall totals and cash-on-hand figures.

With her latest haul, Tennant has raised a little more than $2.5 million since the start of the campaign, and has about $1.5 million in cash on hand, according to her campaign. Capito’s overall take, meanwhile, is pegged at $7.1 million, with close to $5 million in the bank, her campaign said Tuesday.

To be sure, part of the disparity in the overall amounts raised by both campaigns has to do with Tennant’s late entry into the race. She announced her Senate bid in September of 2013, a full year after Capito launched her campaign and began raising money specifically for her Senate run.

Still, the latest figures make it clear that for now anyway, Capito is out-raising Tennant at a quickening pace.

Polls, as much as anything else, have helped drive Capito’s fundraising success, analysts say.

“Capito’s improved fundraising total corresponds with her strong position in this race,” Geoffrey Skelley, a political analyst at the University of Virginia, said on Tuesday. “The polls have her ahead by around 10 points, which allows her to make a more compelling pitch to potential donors.”

Or, to put it another way, Skelley says, “Everyone loves backing a favorite.”

Timing is helping Capito as well, says Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science and international affairs at the University of Mary Washington.

“Capito is a top Republican candidate this cycle and party donors are showing the love,” he said.

Of course, Capito’s campaign put a more populist spin on the fundraising results, saying West Virginians simply “trust her to fight for” their interests.

“The strong outpouring of support for Shelley … shows that [the state’s voters] want Shelley to keep working for them,” Amy Graham, a spokeswoman for Capito, said in a statement Tuesday.

But Tennant’s campaign says Capito’s fundraising prowess has less to do with popular support and more to do with large donations from out-of-state corporate backers, especially those in the financial services industry. Based on fundraising reports through March 30 of this year, 58 percent of Capito’s donations have come from outside West Virginia, though Tennant isn’t far behind, at 53 percent.

“This campaign is a clear choice between the West Virginia values I represent and the Wall Street dollars Congresswoman Capito represents,” Tennant said.

Her campaign points to a report by the Center for Responsive Politics that shows that throughout her career, Capito has received $1.6 million in contributions from Wall Street firms, several of which rank among her largest contributors in the current campaign cycle. That ranks her among Congress’s top beneficiaries of the banking industry.

Tennant aides point out that Capito voted twice “to let Wall Street CEOs” continue to take home large bonuses, “while taxpayers were already bailing out the banks” during the financial crisis six years ago.