All told, as of Friday, almost $41 million has poured into North Carolina’s Senate race between Democrat Cheri Beasley and Republican Ted Budd. That number includes money raised by the campaigns and outside money being spent on the race.
Over the last quarter, Beasley raised $7.4 million and Budd brought in $2.1 million, according to the campaign’s latest campaign finance filings.
Beasley has outraised Budd by a healthy margin this election cycle, bringing in $15.9 million so far, compared to Budd’s $6.3 million, reports show.
So far this year, outside groups have spent more than $18.6 million on the Senate race, including the hard-fought Republican primary, according to Open Secrets, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics.
“This is big money, we’re talking $20 million across the two candidates on a U.S. Senate race,” said Chris Cooper, a political scientist at Western Carolina University.
“Cheri Beasley is outraising Ted Budd about 3-1,” he said. That’s a big difference. “That doesn’t mean by any stretch that Beasley has this wrapped up or that Beasley is the favorite.”
Most recent polls still have Budd ahead of Beasley, but it’s a close race. The latest poll, by the Republican-leaning Trafalgar Group, has Budd only three points ahead of Beasley with 48% to 45%, and with a margin of error of about 3%.
“Money can help blunt the bigger forces that are pushing against her,” Cooper said. And there are definitely obstacles Beasley will have to overcome, he said: “The economy, the approval of Joe Biden, and the fact that the president’s party loses seats in the midterm elections.”
It’s still early in the race, with the Nov. 8 election still 113 days away. That is a long time in a campaign for a seat in the United States Senate and anything could happen over the three-plus months.
Budd, who currently represents North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District, has been seen as the frontrunner in the Senate race so far. He handily won the Republican nomination with the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.
But Budd’s fundraising has lagged behind his Democratic opponent. He has raised almost $6.5 million in this election cycle, including $2.1 million in the last quarter, according to his latest filing with the Federal Election Commission. He has almost $1.8 million cash on hand.
Budd’s campaign has also gotten a big boost from outside spending, both in his campaign for the primary and now in the race against Beasley.
Outside groups have spent more than $8.8 million supporting Budd’s campaign so far this year, according to Open Secrets. Outside groups have spent another $6.3 million to oppose Beasley.
The top outside groups supporting Budd in the race are the conservative Club for Growth, which has spent $6.9 million supporting Budd so far this year. The rest of the outside spending comes from other Republican super PACS, including Americans for Prosperity ($656,000), the Crypto Innovation PAC ($400,000) and the Senate Conservatives Fund ($185,000).
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has spent $6.3 million to oppose Beasley in the race, according to Open Secrets. The group has launched waves of advertisements attacking Beasley’s record.
Budd's campaign said they are not worried by Beasley's fundraising advantage.
"In this era of economic uncertainty forced on America by disastrous Biden/Beasley economic policies, I know it’s a sacrifice for folks to donate to a political campaign and we really do appreciate the support," Budd said in a statement.
The campaign said Democrats tend to outraise Republicans for Senate seats in North Carolina, but Republicans have consistently won those seats.
"Tillis got outraised in 2014 and won, Burr got outraised in 2016 and won, and Tillis got outraised in 2020 and won," the campaign said in a statement. "Heck, Kathy Manning and her allies outspent Ted and his outside supporters by a margin of two to one back in 2018 and still managed to lose."
Beasley, former chief justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court, avoided a costly primary race. North Carolina Democrats got behind her nomination, and she did not face any serious challengers in the primary.
That gave Beasley an early advantage to raise money and focus on the Nov. 8 General Election. But she has still generally lagged behind in the polls.
Beasley so far has raised more than $15.9 million, according to her latest campaign finance report. That includes $7.4 million in the last quarter. Her campaign has spent more than $11 million so far, leaving Beasley with more than $4.8 million cash on hand.
The Beasley campaign has faced millions in advertisements against her from the National Republican Senatorial Committee. But she has also received outside support, most notably almost $2 million in spending from the Democratic Senate Majority PAC, according to Open Secrets.
The Senate Majority PAC is funding an ad campaign to support Beasley and defend against Republican ads attacking her.
The Beasley camp has been quick to highlight the differences between the finances of the two campaigns.
“Congressman Ted Budd’s inability to earn support beyond corporate donors and the ultra-wealthy is only fitting given his career-long focus on putting corporations before people,” Beasley spokeswoman Dory MacMillan said in a statement Monday.
The Beasley campaign said more than 90% of donations taken in over the last quarter were for $100 or less.
As the summer ends, both the Budd and Beasley campaigns will continue to heat up and bring in millions of more in campaign contributions and outside spending.
The United States Senate is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. North Carolina has shown time and again that it is a bright purple state, and the balance of power could hinge on how the Old North State votes Nov. 8.
This story has been updated to include a response from Ted Budd's campaign.