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Vukmir, Sullivan getting cash from everywhere

Aug. 25, 2010

There are 311 candidates running for state Senate and Assembly in Wisconsin this fall.

And none of them - from Madison's most entrenched pols to young Tea Party upstarts - have raised more money this year than Leah Vukmir.

In the first half of 2010, the Republican has taken in more than $85,000 in her bid to unseat incumbent Democrat Jim Sullivan in the 5th District State Senate race.

In fact, since she started running for the seat, Vukmir has raised more than $225,000. Combined with the $160,000 that Sullivan has netted in this election cycle, nearly $400,000 has been raised in the 5th District battle, according to campaign finance reports filed with the state. And that doesn't count any spending done by outside groups.

Those kind of numbers say a lot about the GOP's belief that it can wrestle away the seat- and possibly control of the Senate itself - from the opposition.

A competitive battle

"The amount of money raised for this race, and the race where Sullivan beat Reynolds for the seat in 2006, shows this suburban Milwaukee Senate district is consistently one of the most targeted and competitive legislative races in the state," said Michael Buelow, research director for the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

The 5th District is one of three districts - the others are the 23rd and 31st - in which a freshman Democrat faces a strong GOP challenger, he added.

"All three will face tough re-election bids. If any two of these seats flip, so does control of the Senate. So, the 5th District seat is very important to both Republicans and Democrats - again," Buelow said.

Plenty of cash left

The amount of cash Vukmir has received in the first half of the year is more than double the $42,000 Sullivan had taken in. But Sullivan still ranks sixth among all legislative candidates in fundraising during that time.

And, perhaps most important, both candidates are entering into the final months of the campaign with roughly the same amount of campaign cash on hand: about $120,000.

Perhaps more telling than the total amount raised is how much of it is coming from outside the 5th District.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analyzed the money contributed to Vukmir and Sullivan from 2007 to 2009 by individuals who gave $100 or more to either candidate.

Of the $98,000 that Sullivan received in large contributions during that time, 12 percent came from donors who don't live in Wisconsin. Of Vukmir's $125,000 in contributions of $100 or more, 8 percent is out-of-state cash.

And while both candidates live in Wauwatosa, the vast majority of their money is coming from outside city limits.

For Sullivan, just 7 percent of the money he took in came from Wauwatosa residents; for Vukmir, it was 14 percent.

A closer look at the numbers shows that at least 12 of Sullivan's top 15 contributors - those who gave $1,000 or more - are from outside the 5th District. Fourteen of the 27 donors who gave at least that amount to Vukmir don't live in the district.

BY THE NUMBERS

$227,643

raised by Leah Vukmir so far

$159,753

raised by Jim Sullivan

Source: Wisconsin Government Accountability Board

Beyond the border

• Republican Leah Vukmir has received at least $9,800 in individual contributions from outside Wisconsin, including $2,000 each from donors in San Francisco and Ada, Mich.

• Democrat Jim Sullivan received at least $12,400 in out-of-state money, including $6,000 combined from six donors in New York.

Source: Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

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