Cramer’s Fundraising Far Behind Heitkamp’s

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer raised about $322,000 in the first quarter of 2017, far behind the campaign total raised by his potential opponent in a 2018 Senate race in North Dakota.

Filings with the Federal Election Commission show Cramer’s fundraising committee, Cramer for Congress, raised $322,390 in the first three months of the year and has $641,280 cash on hand.

Those figures trail those raised by U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Cramer’s potential opponent in a 2018 race, by a significant amount. Various news outlets reported last week Heitkamp raised more than $1.6 million in the first quarter and has more than $2 million cash on hand.

A race between Heitkamp and Cramer has long been expected and figures to be a difficult battle if it happens. Heitkamp is a Democrat targeted by Republicans because North Dakota is a conservative state that President Donald Trump carried with 63 percent of the vote in November. Cramer received 69 percent to earn a third term.

But Heitkamp’s popularity remains high after she narrowly defeated Rep. Rick Berg in 2012, in part because she’s seen as a moderate independent on many issues that affect North Dakota. Heitkamp voted against expanded background checks for gun purchases after the Sandy Hook school shooting and voted for Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, for example.

Neither Heitkamp nor Cramer has announced their intention to run for the Senate in 2018.

Cramer’s filing caps a tough week for the congressman. He gained national attention for defending comments made by White House press secretary Sean Spicer about Adolf Hitler. CNN reported Friday that some Republicans would prefer to see state Sen. Tom Campbell of Grafton run against Heitkamp because they believe Cramer has Todd Akins-like tendencies. Akins was a U.S. Senate candidate from Missouri in 2012 who said several controversial things during the campaign, costing Republicans a pickup.

Part of the Campbell story, too, was some Republicans’ belief that the wealthy farmer and businessman could largely self-fund a campaign against Heitkamp, perhaps as much as $2 million.

“Campbell is taking a series of steps to mount a challenge, putting together an organization with the resources that will let him run for a statewide office next year, according to Chip Englander, a political adviser to the state senator,” CNN reported. “Campbell ‘definitely’ will run for either the House seat now occupied by Cramer or for the Senate seat next year, Englander said.”

“‘He can even the score on Day 1,’ Englander said, suggesting Campbell could drop roughly $2 million into the campaign to immediately eliminate Heitkamp’s financial advantage. He said Campbell would raise some money also if he mounts a run.”