WASHINGTON — Staked to a head start, Nevada Republican Rep. Joe Heck holds an early advantage over Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto in fundraising for U.S. Senate, according to federal records.
Heck reported holding $1.4 million in his campaign account as of June 30, after raising $577,576 during the second quarter of the year, according to the latest reports at the Federal Election Commission.
Heck’s fund includes money he raised as a House member this year, plus money carried over from earlier races during three terms as a Henderson-based congressman. He announced his Senate candidacy on July 7.
Starting from scratch after announcing her candidacy on April 7, Cortez Masto, a former Nevada attorney general, reported raising $1.1 million through the end of June, and had $955,825 cash on hand after campaign startup costs.
The numbers reported to the FEC provide the first look at the dollars expected to be accumulated toward the 2016 election to succeed Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, who is retiring at the end of next year.
The campaign for the open seat is being billed as one of the marquee Senate races, as Democrats strive to hold the seat and Republicans eye a potential pickup to preserve their Senate majority.
Heck and Cortez Masto could raise between $15 million and $20 million apiece for the race, most analysts believe, while a few say it could get even costlier.
And those funds are expected to be dwarfed by spending by outside groups. Already the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is spending a reported $750,000 to air commercials praising Heck.
“It is going to be a free-for-all, we know,” said Fred Lokken, a political science professor at Truckee Meadows Community College.
Lokken said the sums being raised by both candidates so early make it highly unlikely either will be challenged in a primary.
“It tells us this early on we have two very serious candidates,” he said. “To have that commitment early is impressive, with more to come.”
Lokken predicted fundraising for the 2016 Senate race will track closer to the combined $50 million that Reid and challenger Sharron Angle raised in 2010 than the $20 million that GOP Sen. Dean Heller and Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley raised in 2012.
Cortez Masto raised most of her early money from individuals. About 25 percent of her total came from people who contributed through Act Blue, a Democratic bundling group. Another $30,000 came from contributions steered through Emily’s List, an organization that promotes Democratic women.
Initial donors included professional poker player Phil Ivey ($5,000), former Sen. and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar of Colorado ($1,000), Las Vegas Sun publisher Brian Greenspun ($2,700) and Democratic political philanthropist George Soros ($5,400).
Roughly $178,000 came from political action committees, most of that from PACs controlled by Democratic senators.
For most of the fundraising quarter, Heck was being recruited by Republicans to jump from a House re-election campaign to a Senate race amid reports that the party’s first choice, Gov. Brian Sandoval, was not interested in running for Senate.
Of Heck’s $577,574 in contributions during the three-month period, 53 percent came from political action committees.
Heck, a physician and a brigadier general in the Army Reserve who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, drew support from medical groups representing, among others, ophthalmologists ($5,000); OB-GYNs ($5,000) and cardiologists ($2,500); and defense contractors such as Boeing ($10,000) and Lockheed Martin ($10,000).
Prominent Las Vegas donors included casino owners Steve Wynn ($5,400) and Anthony Marnell III ($2,700), and Allegiant Air chief executive Maurice Gallagher ($5,400).
Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam gave $5,400 apiece.
Both candidates now will ramp up their fundraising to even higher levels, according to Lokken.
“The first people they hire are the ones who raise money,” he said. “Now we will see that full-court press to see how much they can raise in the next quarter. We should see one and a half million to two million figures in the next quarter.”