Democrat Bob Kerrey marked his return to elective politics with a fundraising boom.
Kerrey's U.S. Senate campaign raised $900,000 in the first quarter of 2012, more than the combined total of $834,000 raised during the quarter by the three major candidates vying for the Republican nomination.
And Kerrey's haul came over the course of a month versus the three months the GOP candidates had, since he got into the race at the end of February.
First quarter reports are due to the Federal Election Commission early next week, but the campaigns released summaries of their reports early.
Kerrey had $556,000 cash on-hand at the end of March, according to his report.
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning continued to be the strongest Republican fundraiser ahead of the May 15 primary. His campaign reported donations of $529,000 during the first quarter of 2012. He reported having $1.4 million cash on-hand.
“It's an honor to have such strong support for my candidacy,” Bruning said. “Our success is the direct result of a grassroots movement from Nebraskans who know and trust my conservative record.”
Nebraska State Treasurer Don Stenberg reported raising $244,000 in the quarter, with $269,000 cash on-hand. His campaign also reported $75,000 in debt. Of that, $20,000 was a loan from Stenberg and the rest was money owed to vendors who have since been paid, according to the campaign.
“Campaigns are not fundraising contests,” said Stenberg spokesman Dan Parsons. “Money is important, but so is grassroots organization, coalition building, issues and message. We are confident that Don will have the resources and ground game needed to win ... and go on to defeat Bob Kerrey in November.”
Stenberg also is counting on the financial support of outside conservative groups such as Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund.
State Sen. Deb Fischer of Valentine reported raising $61,000, with $186,000 cash on-hand. Fischer campaign manager Aaron Trost said 92 percent of her donors were from Nebraska.
“Senator Fischer is very proud that she is raising her campaign contributions from within Nebraska,” Trost said. “While her career politician opponents are focused on raising out-of-state money from special interest groups, Deb Fischer is running a clean campaign that is focused on Nebraska.”
The candidates are seeking to replace Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., who is retiring.
It's important to note that Bruning still has a much larger war chest than Kerrey. And various factors likely aided Kerrey's strong early showing.
He is the only serious contender for the Democratic nomination, while Republican donors may be waiting to commit serious money until their party has chosen its candidate.
Kerrey's background also means he has plenty of wealthy friends in the entertainment industry, financial sector and national political circles that he can tap. He's a former senator, the former head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the former president of the New School in New York City. He's also served on numerous boards and commissions.
The Kerrey campaign said its contributors included 1,600 individuals, with 1,030 Nebraskans, plus 52 party committees and Political Action Committees.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee gave about $46,000 to Kerrey, but campaign manager Paul Johnson said it was not connected to money returned to the DSCC by Nelson.
“Bob Kerrey is outlining his vision for restoring fiscal sanity, improving our national security and reforming a dysfunctional Congress,” Johnson said. “There is a ‘night and day' difference between Kerrey and our opponents that will become crystal-clear in the general election.”
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