The congressional campaign of Ohio Democrat Nina Turner raised $1.55 million in the first quarter of 2021, an eye-popping number in a special election that is seen as a contest between the party’s establishment and its progressive wing as President Joe Biden tries to rally Democrats around his agenda early on in his administration.
Turner is a former state senator and was a co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign. She is running for the Cleveland-area House of Representatives seat vacated when Biden tapped Marcia Fudge to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Turner’s primary competition at this point in the primary race, which will be held in early August, is Shontel Brown, a Cuyahoga County councilwoman and chair of the Democratic Party there. Brown’s campaign announced Monday that it had raised $640,000 in the first quarter.
Campaigns must file first-quarter fundraising reports to the Federal Election Commission by April 15.
Turner leads the field in fundraising, scoring endorsements from the fundraising arm of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and prominent left-leaning leaders such as Sanders and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Cori Bush of Missouri and Ro Khanna of California. Brown has the backing of Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, and an assortment of local and state leaders.
Turner’s campaign ended the quarter with more than $1 million cash on hand, according to a preview of a quarterly filing provided by the campaign. Turner previously reported raising $646,744 in the last few weeks of December after entering the race.
Turner said in a call with reporters that she was “really delighted” about the support her campaign received during the first quarter and that while there are “many more miles to go” and “much more work to be done,” her campaign will be building from a “very strong foundation.”
Brown reported raising $40,133 during the final weeks of 2020. About 55 percent of $680,000 she has raised so far is from northeast Ohio, her campaign said.
Fudge, who was first elected to the seat in 2008 and was reelected in November, raised $58,960 in the second quarter of 2020, $98,324 in the third quarter, $58,960 in the first two weeks of October and $68,614 from October 15 through November 23, FEC filings show.
Turner’s campaign said it had received 77,578 individual contributions last quarter, from all 50 states. The average contribution was about $28 overall and the average donation from Ohio was approximately $48. The top states from which the campaign received financial support were California, followed by Ohio.
Turner said contributions data shows “teachers, retail workers and also health care workers” are fueling her campaign. She said that if elected, her top priorities would be pushing to raise the minimum federal hourly wage to $15 and fighting for better health care coverage. Turner supports the Medicare for All system championed by Sanders and other progressive leaders, a more aggressive stance than the one taken by Biden, who favors shoring up the Affordable Care Act signed into law by former President Barack Obama.
Ohio’s 11th Congressional District is heavily gerrymandered and includes Cleveland, some of its suburbs and part of Akron. It strongly favors Democrats and there is a strong likelihood the winner of the August primary will go on to win the special election in November.
Potential candidates have until May to enter the race. Others who have declared their candidacies in the Democratic primary include former state Sens. Shirley Smith and Jeff Johnson, Navy veteran Tariq Shabazz and former state Reps. John Barnes Jr. and Bryan Flannery.