Two Lehigh Valley pols raised more than $1M each for winning state Senate races

The tallies ‘certainly signal we are in a new era in terms of the costs of state legislative races,’ Muhlenberg College political analyst Chris Borick said

By: - December 18, 2022 6:30 am

Nick Miller (L) and Jarrett Coleman (Photo by Donna Fisher for Armchair Lehigh Valley).

By Katherine Reinhard and Robert H. Orenstein

In what is being called historically exceptional, two Lehigh Valley candidates for state Senate each had victories that were boosted by more than $1 million in cash and in-kind donations.

Republican Jarrett Coleman raised $1,229,214 to capture the 16th Senate District seat. The bulk –  $807,275 – came from in-kind donations, and the rest –  $421,939 – in cash, according to state campaign finance reports that cover Jan. 1 through Nov. 28.

When cash and in-kind donations from Coleman’s opponent, Democrat Mark Pinsley, are factored in, the 16th Senate race drew $1,414,308 in cash and in-kind donations.

Democrat Nick Miller, who won in 14th Senate District, raised $860,853 in cash and benefited from $204,122 in in-kind donations, for a total of about $1,064,975, data shows.

When cash and in-kind donations from his opponent Republican Dean Browning are factored in, the two 14th candidates raised a combined $1,601,815.

Chris Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, described the amounts raised in the senate races as consequential.

“Those finance figures for the [state] Senate races are exceptional by historic standards and certainly signal we are in a new era in terms of the costs of state legislative races,” Borick said in an email.

Borick said the influx of money and services signals that “both parties have increasingly recognized the key role of state government, especially in swing states such as Pennsylvania.”

He said, “Thus, it’s likely that the amount of money coming into these races will continue to rise in upcoming cycles.”

14th Senate District 

Democrat Nick Miller, winner
Money raised:
Total spent: $829,590
Ending balance: $31,263
In-kind contributions: $204,122
Unpaid debt: $45,000 loaned by Miller.

Highlights: Miller raised a combined $1,064,975 in cash and in-kind contributions. He raised the most cash of any candidate running for the state Senate or House in the Lehigh Valley. The bulk of his cash came from political action committees, including unions and incumbent Democratic lawmakers. The political campaign committee of state Sen. Vincent Hughes, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, gave $162,750. Most of Miller’s in-kind contributions came from Democratic Party-related PACs and $4,200 coming from Planned Parenthood’s PAC.

Republican Dean Browning
Money raised: 
Total spent: $446,947
Ending balance:  $168
In kind contributions: $89,725
Unpaid debt: $107,500 in loans from Browning.
Highlights: Monetary donations include $55,000 from the For-Ward PAC and $45,000 from the Senate Republican Campaign Committee. Browning had the most in personal loans of the Lehigh Valley candidates running for the state House or Senate.

Both the 14th and 16th District seats had no incumbent going into the Nov. 8 election, the 14th from redistricting and 16th from a primary defeat – making them must-wins for both parties.

Adding to the need for large campaign coffers was that Coleman and Miller faced tough primaries.

Coleman, who had been elected to office for the first time in November 2021 as a Parkland School Board member, defeated longtime incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Browne by 24 votes.

Miller, an Allentown School Board member, defeated Democrat Tara Zrinski, a Northampton County commissioner, by 42 votes in a race whose outcome was delayed by a lawsuit filed by voters over uncounted ballots.

16th Senate District 

Republican Jarrett Coleman, winner
Money raised: 
Total spent: $396,121
Ending balance: $25,818
In-kind contributions: $807,275
Unpaid debts and obligations: $106,500
Highlights: Coleman raised a combined $1,229,214. The bulk came from in-kind contributions to help him defeat longtime incumbent Sen. Pat Browne in the spring and Democrat Mark Pinsley in the fall. Much of the in-kind contributions – $520,087 – came from Citizens Alliance, which is linked to Jeffrey Yass’ Students First PAC. Yass is co-founder of the Susquehanna International Group and is Pennsylvania’s richest resident.

Coleman’s debt breaks down to $31,500 in loans from William Bachenberg and $75,000 from his wife, Laura. The Bachenbergs are owners of Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays in North Whitehall Township. William Bachenberg drew headlines earlier this year after the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection subpoenaed him to testify about his involvement in the effort to overturn the 2020 election. The committee said it learned Bachenberg chaired a meeting of Republicans who prepared a signed list of alternate electors to be appointed to the Electoral College in the event that Trump won his court challenges.

Democrat Mark Pinsely
Money carried over: $3,602
Money raised: $113,402
Total spent:  $158,614
Ending balance: -$41,610
In-kind contributions: $71,692
Unpaid debts: $18,382 in loans from candidate
Highlights: Pinsley spent more than he brought in, leaving him with a negative fund balance and personal loans.

Meanwhile, in the 137th House District, incumbent Republican Joe Emrick, who was first elected in 2010, and Democrat Anna B. Thomas, a political newcomer, together generated at least $1 million in cash and in-kind donations.

Emrick, who saw his district become evenly split due to redistricting, beat Thomas by 766 votes.

Across the Lehigh Valley, candidates were lifted by donations from political action committees and elected state lawmakers.

In another show of how fiercely political powers were looking for wins, Democratic, Republican and special-interest groups contributed more than $2.2 million of in-kind donations for media buys, polling, mailings and staffing for candidates running for state House and Senate in the Lehigh Valley.

Here’s a look at what the other Lehigh Valley candidates raised and spent. All filings are through Nov. 28 except where noted. This post will be updated when they are available. A final campaign report is due Jan. 31.

18th Senate

Democrat Lisa Boscola, incumbent winner
Money carried over:
Total raised: $293,851
Total spent: $385,145
Ending Balance: $288,391
Value of in-kind donations: $171,200
Unpaid debt: 0
Highlights: The bulk of her donations came from political action committees representing political and business groups. She also received support from Lehigh Valley business leaders, including developers J.B. Reilly ($8,000), Lou Pektor ($5,000) and Michael Perucci ($10,000).

Republican John Merhottein
Total raised: 
Total spent: $40,028
Ending balance: $8,258
In-kind donations: $117,934
Unpaid Debt: $11,233 in loans from Merhottein
Highlights: Merhottein’s in-kind donations came from Republican-related groups.

22nd House District

Democrat Joshua Siegel, winner
(Filing through Cycle 5, which ended 10-24)
Total raised:
Total spent: $42,239
Ending balance: $11,821
In-kind contributions: $5,002
Unpaid debt: $4,010 in loans from candidate
Highlights: Siegel saw strong union support. Most of his in-kind contributions came from the Progressive Turnout Project Victory Fund

Republican Robert E. Smith Jr.
(Filing through Cycle 5, which ended 10-24)
Money carried over:
Total raised: $18,903
Total spent: $16,844
Ending balance: $2,638
Unpaid debt: 0

131st House District

Republican Milou Mackenzie, incumbent winner
Money carried over:
Amount raised
: $61,390
Amount spent: $69,760
Ending balance: $3,960
In-kind contributions: $28,964
Unpaid Debt: $25,100 in loans from candidate
Highlights: Most of her contributions came from the Republican Party of Pennsylvania.

Democrat Kevin Branco
Money carried over: 
Amount raised:
Amount spent: $29,447
Ending balance: $11,132
In-kind contributions: 0
Unpaid Debt: 0

132nd House District

Democrat Mike Schlossberg, incumbent winner
Money carried over: 
Money raised:
Total spent: $180,166
Ending balance: -$7,085
In-kind contributions: $30,184
Unpaid debt: 0
Highlights: Most of Schlossberg’s contributions were of $1,000 or less, including political action committees. Schlossberg had a negative balance on Nov. 28.

Republican Bethney Q. Finch
(Also filed under Bethney Quinn Finch)
Cycle 2 (3-29 to 5-2): 
Raised: 0; spent: $2,223; $60 for in-kind contribution from Lehigh County Republican Committee
Cycle 5 (10-25-11-28): 0 raised and 0 spent. No in-kind contributions.

Libertarian Matthew Schutter
No reports filed

134th House District 

Democrat Peter Schweyer, incumbent winner
Money carried over: 
Monday raised: 
Total spent: $158,532
Ending balance: $23,136
In kind donations: $2,600
Unpaid debt:
Highlights: The bulk of Schweyer’s contributions came in at under $1,000, including PACs.

Republican Brent Labenberg
Money raised: 
Total spent: $6,110
Ending balance: 0
In-kind donations: $441
Unpaid debts: 0

137th House District

Republican Joe Emrick, incumbent winner
Money carried over:
Money raised: $107,607
Total spent: $223,467
Ending balance: $64,035
In-kind contributions: $371,379
Unpaid debts: 0
Highlights: Emrick spent $594,846 in cash and in-kind donations; $187,369 of his in-kind contributions came from the Commonwealth Leaders Fund, which is heavily funded by the Commonwealth Children’s Choice Fund, which supports parental choice and, in turn, is funded largely by Student’s First PAC, which gave him $10,000. Commonwealth Children’s Choice also donated at least $10,000.

Democrat Anna B. Thomas
(Filing through Cycle 5, which ended 10-24)
Money raised:
Total spent: $225,145
Ending balance: $65,338
In-kind contributions: $309,124
Unpaid debt: 0
Highlights: Thomas had $599,607 in cash and in-kind donations through Cycle 5, which helped her come within 766 votes of defeating Emrick. The Democratic Party kicked in the bulk of her in-kind contributions. She also received strong financial support from unions and Democratic PACs.

138th House District

Republican Ann Flood, incumbent winner
Money brought forward:
Money raised: $35,985
Total spent: $45,274
Ending balance: $21,912
In-kind donations: $31,856
Unpaid debt: 0
Highlight: The bulk of her in-kind contributions came from PA GOP.

Democrat Eugene Hunter
Money raised: $3,721
Money spent: $1,309
Ending balance: $2,412
In-kind donations: 0
Unpaid debt: 0

Katherine Reinhard and Robert H. Orenstein are reporters for Armchair Lehigh Valley, a politics newsletter, where this story first appeared

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.