6th Congressional race: Casten, Ives go virtual to raise enthusiasm, funds

Campaign fundraising totals in the hundreds of thousands of dollars from the second quarter this year show candidates for U.S. Congress in the 6th District are finding ways to reach supporters despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Filings with the Federal Election Commission show incumbent Democrat Sean Casten brought in $748,801 in total receipts between April 1 and June 30, while Republican challenger Jeanne Ives raised $483,239 for her campaign committee and $47,800 in a "Jeanne Victory" fund established by the Illinois Republican Party and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Both candidates described their fundraising totals with excitement in news releases, using terms like "strong," "overwhelming" and "impressive."

Ives, a Wheaton resident who won a primary this spring against Glen Ellyn's Gordon "Jay" Kinzler, said in a release on her website that her second quarter fundraising shows she can raise the money needed to compete with Casten.

Casten, a Downers Grove resident serving his first term after winning the seat from longtime Republican lawmaker Peter Roskam, said the totals show his campaign has the enthusiasm and voter support it needs to win again.

Ives finished the first half of 2020 with $501,346 on hand, while Casten closed the first six months of the year with $3,013,594, FEC records show. Ives' total is roughly one-sixth of Casten's.

"This race was never going to be easy, but if we raise enough money to connect with enough people - we win," Ives said in a news release. "I am incredibly grateful for the support and generosity so many have shown. Now we just have to buckle down and take it over the finish line."

Casten said fundraising and campaigning have taken a digital turn. While he misses in-person town hall events (he hosted about 30 of them before the pandemic), Casten said he is attracting more listeners during virtual town halls. He said between 6,000 and 7,000 people have attended his virtual events on topics such as the coronavirus and the environment, while his largest in-person event drew 400 people.

Phone banking works similarly well, Casten said, with volunteers calling from home, rather than field offices.

"I would love to be back at the train stations and doing things you normally do," Casten said, "it's just not in the cards."

As they sought donor dollars through virtual means, 6th District candidates put out opposing views on campaign finance reform and climate protection measures.

Casten has supported a bill known as HR1, which he said would "reduce the role of money in politics to return the power back to the American people."

Ives said the bill would "force taxpayers to fund campaigns."

"He must have forgotten we have $26 trillion in debt," Ives said. "That's the difference between us: He's working to line his pockets. I am running to protect your pocketbook."

Casten's campaign said he is running to be responsive to voter needs and lead on issues people care about, including strengthening the Affordable Care Act and addressing climate change.

"That's why he was elected in 2018," campaign manager Chloe Hunt said in a news release, "and that's how he intends to win reelection in 2020."

On climate, Ives said Casten's support of a comprehensive climate action framework released by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis proves he is "decidedly immoderate." Ives called the framework "a host of progressive policy ideas that expand government bureaucracy, create carve-outs and special deals for favored industries and interests."

Casten, who has a background as a clean energy entrepreneur, said the plan offers concrete ideas for how to reduce carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050. It incorporates several bills Casten has written, including ideas that relate to climate risk disclosure, energy storage research, electricity rates and housing efficiency standards.

"We have a road map," Casten said. "We're honest about it and it's scientifically informed."

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