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As primary closes in, Minnesota governor candidates Walz, Pawlenty lead in campaign funds

Jeff Johnson, left, Tim Walz, Erin Murphy, Lori Swanson and Tim Pawlenty

ST. PAUL -- The race to be Minnesota’s next governor has already cost more than $3.5 million and the five top candidates in the running have plenty of cash to spend before the Aug. 14 primary.

The two Republicans and three Democrats hoping to make it to the November election have raised nearly $5 million this year, according to pre-primary campaign finance reports. When previous fundraising is included, the field of candidates still has more than $2 million in the bank.

The reports released Tuesday by the state Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board cover donations and spending from Jan. 1 through July 23.

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who entered the race late, has raised the most. The South St. Paul native hauled in more than $2 million so far this year and has roughly $1 million in savings.

Pawlenty’s nearest DFL rival is Congressman Tim Walz, who raised $1.3 million this year and has $500,000 left to spend.

DFL Attorney General Lori Swanson, who announced her candidacy after the party endorsing convention in June, quickly raised almost $610,000 while St. Paul State Rep. Erin Murphy, who has the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party backing, brought in almost $588,000 this year.

Jeff Johnson, who has the Republican endorsement, has raised about $313,000 and spent nearly $300,000. When Johnson’s previous fundraising is included, the Hennepin County County Commissioner has $193,000 on hand before the primary.

Campaign finance reports were due to the state Monday and are the final in-depth look at the cash race before voters winnow the field Aug. 14. The next round of reports are due Sept. 25.

Endorsed candidates Murphy and Johnson also get help from their political parties. The latest fundraising reports show the DFL is in a significantly better cash position than the GOP.

Democrats have raised nearly $3.4 million this year, more than five times the $620,000 raised by Republicans. DFLers have already spent more than $3 million while the GOP has spent more than $850,000.

Republicans have just $159,000 in the bank and also are facing $253,000 in debts. Democrats have more than $585,000 on hand and $85,000 in debts.

The campaign finance reports also illuminate where candidates’ money comes from. More than 90 percent of the money donated to candidates this year came from individuals. Political groups and lobbyists make up the rest, donating 6.4 percent and 2.5 percent of the total haul, respectively.

Top fundraisers Walz and Pawlenty got the most from lobbyists with each receiving more than $35,000 this year from interest groups. However, lobbyists’ contributions accounted for 1.6 percent of Pawlenty’s and 2.9 percent of Walz’s total contributions.

Walz also led in money coming from political groups with $125,250, or nearly 10 percent of his $1.3 million in donations coming from political groups and committees. Swanson received the second most, $66,850, including the maximum allowed $40,000 from her former attorney general campaign committee.

The Democratic primary race for attorney general is also crowded after incumbent Swanson made a last minute bid for governor. Minneapolis Congressman Keith Ellison leads that race with more than $212,000 raised and nearly $106,000 in the bank.

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