Huge fundraising gap illustrates different strategies in 10th Congressional District race

  • Republican challenger Valerie Ramirez Mukherjee and Democratic incumbent Brad Schneider are the candidates for Illinois' 10th Congressional District seat.

    Republican challenger Valerie Ramirez Mukherjee and Democratic incumbent Brad Schneider are the candidates for Illinois' 10th Congressional District seat.

 
 
Updated 8/3/2020 9:58 PM

The candidates for Illinois' 10th Congressional District seat have radically different strategies when it comes to funding their campaigns.

Democratic incumbent Brad Schneider of Deerfield collected $312,451 from political supporters between April 1 and June 30, his latest campaign finance report shows, finishing the year's second quarter with more than $2.4 million in the bank after expenses.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

His challenger, Republican Valerie Ramirez Mukherjee of Northbrook, is self-financing her bid. She lent her campaign $100,000 last year and accumulated nearly $56,504 in additional campaign debt to herself last quarter, her latest report shows.

Ramirez Mukherjee collected only $1,322 in donations during the quarter and finished the period with less than $70,475 saved.

"I have done zero fundraisers (and made) zero requests," Ramirez Mukherjee said. "Any donations received have been unsolicited."

That's an unusual approach for the 10th District, which includes parts of Cook and Lake counties and has seen candidates including Schneider raise and spend millions on a single election.

The lack of support from the national or state GOP or special-interest groups signals those organizations view other House races in the state as better investments than Ramirez Mukherjee's campaign, elections expert Kent Redfield said.

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"Without national financial support and state organizational support, the only option for the Republican candidate is (to) self-fund and try to portray her strategy as a virtue," said Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Congressional hopefuls must file quarterly financial reports with the Federal Election Commission. Reports can be viewed at fec.gov.

Schneider is in his third term in the U.S. House, having trounced Republican challenger Doug Bennett in 2018. Schneider outspent Bennett almost 9-to-1.

Scheider's latest financial report showed about $215,474 in donations from individuals. Team Schneider also reported receiving about $97,164 from political action committees representing various companies and other special interests.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Many of those donations came from pharmaceutical and health care companies, such as Baxter International, which gave $1,000; Abbott Laboratories, which gave $5,000; Astellas Pharma US, which gave $1,000; Novartis Corp., which gave $2,500; Novo Nordisk, which gave $4,000; and the American Hospital Association, which gave $2,000.

When asked about those donations, Schneider spokesman Matt Fried noted the congressman "has taken on the big drug companies" by voting to lower prescription drug prices and to let Medicare negotiate drug prices.

Schneider also received donations from insurance, automobile and retail companies, among others.

Schneider's campaign spent about $146,506 on payroll, travel and other expenses during the period. He has no campaign debt.

Ramirez Mukherjee accepted no donations from political action committees during the quarter.

Of the $1,322 in campaign contributions her campaign did receive, most of it came as a $1,000 payment from one supporter, records show.

Ramirez Mukherjee's campaign spent less than $1,145 during the period.

Ramirez Mukherjee, who runs a family investment business, insisted the lack of fundraising is deliberate. She said she's focusing on grass-roots campaigning and using technology to build support.

"We keep electing politicians that have out-of-control campaign budgets," said Ramirez Mukherjee, who moved to Northbrook from Winnetka in March. "They think money must grow on trees. I know it doesn't."

Redfield, however, said her strategy is dictated by the lack of party support.

Although the 10th District race has been strongly contested in past elections, the district is solidly blue now, thanks to boundaries drawn by Democrats in 2012 and shifting demographics, Redfield said. President Donald Trump has been toxic for GOP candidates in the suburbs, too, Redfield said.

Those factors don't bode well for Ramirez Mukherjee, he said.

"There is no reason to expect she will fare any better than the Republican candidate who lost badly to Rep. Schneider in 2018," Redfield said.

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