Democratic candidates reap financial benefits of anti-Trump fervor

WASHINGTON — Democratic challengers riding a wave of displeasure with Republican leaders in Washington are collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars — sometimes in a matter of days or weeks — as anti-Trump fervor is translating into hard cash for this fall’s midterm fights.

In Texas, Harvard Law graduate and refugee activist Alex Triantaphyllis has raised nearly as much the incumbent, Representative John Abney Culberson, a Republican seeking his 10th term.

In New Hampshire, first-time congressional candidate Maura Sullivan has raised twice as much as the leading Republican seeking a seat previously held by the GOP.


And in Wisconsin, a Democrat trying to unseat House Speaker Paul Ryan raised $150,000 in two days after Ryan touted a high school secretary’s $1.50 salary increase thanks to the new tax law.

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The strong showings in recent campaign finance filings offer a glimmer of hope for Democrats, who face a changing environment in their effort to regain the majority. Polls that just weeks ago showed deep frustration with Republicans and the president now show voters softening toward Republican, as they warm to the tax law and feel the effects of a strong economy.

In addition, Republicans retain some financial advantages. The Republican National Committee has raised far more money than its Democratic counterpart, thanks in part to a surge in small-dollar donations sparked by Trump’s popularity with the GOP base.

Some major Democratic donors, meanwhile, seem hesitant to invest in upstart, unproven ‘‘resistance’’ groups that might also support Democratic hopefuls.

Still, the intensity on the left is worrying GOP strategists.


‘‘We acknowledge the left is energized right now,’’ said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, the main political arm of the influential Koch network of conservative donors. The remarks came at a gathering of donors in California last month. ‘‘It’s not just marches and such that they’re doing. It’s showing in some of the recent elections. There’s no question about it.’’

Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, agreed that Democrats are energized but noted that much of their campaign cash may be spent early in the year during crowded primary contests.

‘‘A lot of these candidates have primary challengers that are also raising tons of money,’’ Hunt said.

The committees that support Democratic congressional candidates posted strong fund-raising figures in 2017, according to campaign finance reports that showed the two main organizations outraising their Republican counterparts by $32 million.

Mindful of the need to go aggressively on the offensive, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced Thursday that it would be expanding its list of targeted races to more than 100 — including contests in Alaska, South Carolina, and rural eastern Maryland.