Latest reports show COVID-19 fundraising challenges in 14th District race

Incumbent Democrat Lauren Underwood used the second quarter to continue amassing significantly more financial support for her reelection bid in the 14th Congressional District than GOP rival Jim Oberweis has raised to try to unseat her.

Underwood, a Naperville resident, raked in $1.2 million in donations in the quarter, compared to $250,000 for Oberweis, according to FEC filings. The totals continue a trend demonstrated in the primary, which showed Underwood outraising all seven Republican hopefuls combined.

It's not unusual for an incumbent to have both a name recognition advantage and a fundraising advantage. Oberweis, a state senator from Sugar Grove, has also run multiple campaigns where significant amounts came out of his own wallet.

The second quarter encompassed the most severe quarantine periods of the COVID-19 outbreak along with the difficulties of raising money under those conditions. In-person dinners and door-knocking campaigns were mostly sidelined in favor of Zoom calls with donors and other virtual fundraisers. The totals so far may be an indication of how well traditional donor pools for the candidates and parties have adapted to those formats and a sign of successes or difficulties to come as the number of COVID-19 infections begins to rise again.

"I wasn't sure how successful our fundraising efforts would be this quarter," said Underwood in a statement from her campaign. "So many in our community are struggling due to COVID-19. There are so many worthy causes to support right now."

Oberweis recognized the financial hardships donors experienced during the last quarter in his statement. He was optimistic that COVID-19 would not be a major deterrent for the remainder of the election.

"The pandemic has not stopped our campaign," Oberweis said. "Now that the economy is starting to come back, we anticipate even more fundraising success in the third quarter."

An economic rebound may also play into Oberweis' ability or willingness to inject another large sum of money into his campaign. Oberweis is the chairman of Oberweis Dairy, which received a $5.6 million federal Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loan to keep 500 jobs on the payroll.

While Oberweis lent his campaign $1 million during the primary battle, he repaid himself $500,000 in January. He's kicked in only $100,000 since then in support of his general election.

"Since the primary, my race has become one of the most important races nationally," Oberweis said. "Despite the obvious challenges of raising money during a pandemic, we finished the quarter strong and are in a great position to win."

Oberweis hosted an in-person reception earlier this month at the Whitetail Ridge Golf Club in Yorkville. James Marter, who competed against Oberweis in the GOP primary, was the special guest - a sign of local party efforts to support Oberweis.

Underwood was on track to host what her campaign billed as its "campaign kickoff rally" via a St. Charles-based virtual event on Friday.

Through the second quarter, Underwood raised $4.8 million, spent $1.7 million and has $3.2 million in cash on hand. Oberweis raised $1.9 million, spent $1.6 million and has $375,000 in cash on hand.

The sprawling 14th District includes parts of DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.

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