For the third month in a row, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders raised more money in Kentucky than any of the other presidential candidates — and his Bluegrass cash flow is accelerating.
According to the latest data from the Federal Election Commission, Sanders raised $126,639 from Kentucky donors in March, more than the combined receipts of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Together they received $119,369.
Sanders’ Kentucky contributions overall still trail Clinton’s by about $92,000, but he is making up ground fast. As of Dec. 31, his Kentucky intake was only 28 percent of Clinton’s. As of March 31, it was 79 percent. He has outraised the three remaining Republican candidates in Kentucky $352,236 to $343,325.
“I think Kentucky is especially engaged in a way that I haven’t seen in a couple of the other states that I’ve been in,” said Kass Bessert, director of the Sanders campaign in Kentucky. “We’re seeing people get involved in politics who have never felt empowered or involved to this extent.”
Sanders’ odds, however, remain long, and pollsters give him little chance to win the Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton is 80 percent of the way to obtaining the delegates needed for the nomination, NPR reported.
Before his defeat to Clinton in the New York primary last Tuesday, he had defeated her in seven straight states, mostly in the West. The $182.1 million he has raised nationally is slightly ahead of Clinton’s haul, according to FEC data.
As he is nationally, Sanders is receiving large numbers of small contributions from Kentuckians.
“The national average is still right at $27, and I believe that continues to ring consistent in Kentucky,” Bessert said. “We see a younger demographic, so a fairly large proportion of the Kentucky demographic who are donating are under the age of 35 and still a significant amount are under the age of 24.”
Kentucky’s Democratic primary doesn’t take place until May 17. Today will be pivotal for the Sanders and Clinton campaigns as primary voters go to the polls in five states — Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware. Clinton holds a 1,446-to-1,200 lead over Sanders in pledged delegates, and the 462 delegates up for grabs in those five states could widen or close the gap.
In Kentucky, 56 percent of contributions for the 2016 presidential race have gone to Republican candidates. The bulk of that money, though, changed hands last year when the field was wide open with 13 candidates — including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who remains the leading Republican fundraiser in the state well after dropping out of the race.
Kentucky donations to Democratic candidates began to surpass those to Republicans in January. In March, Democrats outraised Republicans in Kentucky by two and a half times, thanks mostly to Sanders.
Reporter James McNair can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (502) 814.6543.
This story was reported by WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.