By Julia Shanahan
Democratic auditor general candidate Nina Ahmad loaned her campaign more than $290,000, and has spent more than $395,000 since March 10, significantly more than her opponents, according to the most recent filings from the Pennsylvania Department of State.
All of the Democratic candidates, except for Ahmad and Michael Lamb, have seen a decrease in expenditures since March 10 as travel fees disappear amid COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.
These filings for the six-way primary fight to become Pennsylvania’s next fiscal watchdog, cover contributions and expenditures from March 10 to May 18.
Dauphin County Controller Tim Defoor is the presumptive Republican nominee for state auditor general and spent less than $20 this cycle, campaign filings showed.
Lamb, Pittsburgh’s City Controller, spent more than $240,000, with most of that money going to media consulting, along with a $25,000 donation to Philadelphia Democratic City Committee, campaign filings showed.
Lamb and Defoor’s filings for this cycle are not yet available online, but the Capital-Star received the campaign finance reports through the Department of State communications office.
“I would say this is normal for a well-funded statewide race, regardless of the office,” Democratic strategist Joe Corrigan said.
But, he said, it’s not typical to see someone self-fund more than $290,000 in one cycle of a statewide primary race.
Corrigan said that because name recognition is so important in a primary for a statewide office, it makes sense that some candidates would spend large amounts of money on advertising and consulting.
“The only prayer candidates for statewide office typically have is to raise their name ID,” Corrigan said.
Ahmad received $37,000 in PAC money, more than the other Democratic candidates. Ahmad, a former Philadelphia deputy and 2018 hopeful for lieutenant governor, was the only candidate of the other five Democrats to spend a significant amount of money on polling.
Ahmad’s campaign paid a Washington D.C. research company more than $39,000 for what was described as a “poll invoice” on the filings. Ahmad has some campaign experience in the state after a failed attempt at running for Lieutenant Governor in the 2018 primary.
Democratic candidate Christina Hartman, who also has campaign experience, spent more than $31,000, down $6,000 from the last cycle. A majority of Hartman’s expenditures went toward salaries and media consulting.
State Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre, spent about $4,000 this cycle, a majority going to online advertising, campaign filings showed.
Former and current Democratic operatives also pointed out Pennsylvania’s expensive media market, and how candidates in the auditor general race with campaign experience know how expensive it can be to advertise.
Julia Shanahan, a rising senior at the University of Iowa, is a summer intern for the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association.