U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is facing a potentially contentious general election challenge, but the only sitting senators who have raised less cash than her are retiring from politics.
Hyde-Smith has raised $1.3 million this cycle, which is less than 96 of the nation’s 100 senators. The three senators who have raised less than Hyde-Smith this cycle — Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming — announced last year they would not seek re-election in 2020.
Despite the low fundraising marks so far this cycle, Hyde-Smith holds at least a $600,000 cash advantage over the next closest candidate for the seat she holds, according to Friday’s campaign finance reports that include fundraising and spending for the last quarter of 2019.
“Sen. Hyde-Smith is the only senator up for re-election who faced a competitive election just over a year ago,” Hyde-Smith campaign spokesman Justin Brasell said in a statement. “We are very pleased with the level of support for 2020 campaign, which is just beginning. Last year the focus was on elections for statewide offices, which are now all held by Republicans — who raised record amounts.”
Some of Hyde-Smith’s struggles to raise cash during this cycle may be carry-over from controversy she created during the 2018 campaign. Hyde-Smith made several remarks on the trail — including saying she would attend a “public hanging” — that garnered national scrutiny and inspired numerous corporations including Major League Baseball, AT&T, Union Pacific, Aetna, Pfizer, Google and Facebook to ask Hyde-Smith to return their previous contributions.
When reached for comment this week, the Hyde-Smith campaign did not address the companies’ request for returned contributions.
Hyde-Smith’s low 2020 cycle fundraising total could be a boon for Democrats, who are looking to gain majority control of the U.S. Senate in November and are planning to steer national money to Mississippi.
Hyde-Smith faces a November election against the winner of the March Democratic primary, which includes former congressman Mike Espy, who in 2018 came closer than any Democrat to winning a statewide election in the modern political era in a special election runoff against Hyde-Smith.
If Espy wins the primary, his candidacy is expected to again garner national interest and an influx of national cash.
In 2018, Espy raised $7.5 million compared to $5.5 million for the victorious Hyde-Smith, becoming the first Democrat in several statewide elections to outraise a Republican opponent. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez told Mississippi Today in late 2019 the national party would invest in Mississippi for the third straight election year.
So far this cycle, Espy’s fundraising totals have lagged Hyde-Smith’s. Espy, who has sent his supporters nearly daily fundraising emails since he officially announced his campaign in November, has raised about $500,000 this cycle and has $144,000 cash on hand.
“Our donors and volunteers are engaged and enthusiastic about winning this race,” Brasell said. “We’ll be announcing some exciting events soon, and there’s no doubt we’ll continue out-pacing our opponent and raising the resources we need to secure another victory in November.”