Zerban raises $100K, well behind Rep. Paul Ryan
MILWAUKEE — Democrat Rob Zerban knows he'll never raise as much cash as U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the man he hopes to unseat in November. Instead, the former Kenosha County Board supervisor says he's counting on voter enthusiasm to help him counter the influence of high-dollar corporate donations.
Ryan, a formidable fundraiser, has been on even more of a tear of late — nearly $1.4 million in the quarter that ended March 31, and a personal-best $1.6 million in the quarter that ended June 30. Those amounts dwarf the amount raised by Zerban, whose campaign said Monday he raised $104,000 last quarter and has $102,000 cash on hand.
In other words, for every $1 Zerban raised last quarter, Ryan brought in more than $15.
Zerban said he never expected to match Ryan's fundraising dollar for dollar because the 2012 vice presidential candidate "has made a career of advocating for the very wealthiest among us."
"I know that this race will be decided by the enthusiasm of the voters, not bags of campaign cash," he said in a statement.
But before taking on Ryan, Zerban must make it through the Aug. 12 Democratic primary, in which he faces activist Amar Kaleka.
Kaleka's fundraising report had not been posted to the Federal Election Commission's website as of Tuesday morning. He said his campaign staff was still finalizing its fundraising report, but acknowledged his figures would be lower than Zerban's.
"What we lack in cash, we make up in spirit and a volunteer army of newly recruited diverse Democrats from all over the district," Kaleka said via text message.
The Ryan campaign said Tuesday it doesn't plan to comment on the race until after the Democratic primary.
Ryan bested Zerban in 2012 with 55 percent of the vote to 43 percent— the 12-point margin of victory was the narrowest of Ryan's eight election wins. Zerban's campaign says that outcome shows Ryan is vulnerable.
Other factors may have contributed to a closer race than normal, said Susan Johnson, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. The election coincided a presidential race in which Democrats were energized to turn out for Barack Obama, she said. Also, Ryan will be able to campaign more in his district this year, as opposed to last time, when he was crisscrossing the country as a vice presidential candidate.
Even if Zerban did hold Ryan to his smallest margin of victory, it was still a double-digit win, she added. Also, considering that Ryan's campaign has $3.8 million in the bank, whoever wins the Democratic primary will face a steep climb, she said.
"I think it's very difficult to counter a (cash) margin that great," Johnson said.
Ryan has a primary challenger of his own: Jeremy Ryan, a Madison man who's well-known as a Capitol protester. The two are not related. Jeremy Ryan said he didn't submit a campaign finance report because he hadn't raised the minimum $5,000 that triggers the reporting requirement.
Keith Deschler, a Libertarian, is also running in November as a write-in candidate.