Democratic Senate campaigns pull in more than $240 million in third-quarter fundraising

FILE PHOTO: Jaime Harrison chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party and a candidate for Democratic National Committee Chairman, speaks during a Democratic National Committee forum in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., February 11, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic candidates running for the U.S. Senate in nine hotly contested races amassed more than $240 million in contributions during the third quarter, leaving their Republican opponents far behind in fundraising as the campaign entered its final weeks.

But as candidates approached a midnight filing deadline on Thursday, Federal Election Commission records and campaign announcements also showed some Republicans only marginally behind in cash at the end of the quarter, with a few ahead.

Republicans are battling to keep their 53-47 majority in the Nov. 3 election. Nonpartisan election analysts rate 12 Senate races as competitive this year, with 10 Republican-held seats and two Democratic-held seats in play.

Financial firepower will help determine whether Republicans fend off a powerful drive by Democrats to take the control of the Senate and set the legislative agenda in Congress next year.

Democrat Jaime Harrison, who is running neck and neck against Republican Senator Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, raised a staggering $57.9 million during the three-month period ended Sept. 30, more than twice the $28 million reported by Graham’s campaign.

Democrat Mark Kelly collected nearly $39 million, besting a robust $23 million fundraising total for his Arizona opponent, Republican Senator Martha McSally. Kelly entered October with nearly $19 million in cash, vs. McSally’s $12.2 million.

In the key swing state of North Carolina, Democrat Cal Cunningham raised $28.3 million in the quarter, dwarfing Republican Senator Thom Tillis’ $6.6. million.

Montana Democratic Governor Steve Bullock raised $26.9 million, vs. $11.5 million for Republican Senator Steve Daines. But Daines ended the quarter with $3.5 million in cash on hand, compared with Bullock’s $2 million.

Not all candidates have reported their fundraising totals.

Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and Edwina Gibbs