Democratic challengers in two tight U.S. Senate races step up fundraising

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic contenders for two Republican-held U.S. Senate seats on Monday said they accelerated fundraising in the second quarter, pointing to their momentum in what were already seen as competitive races.

FILE PHOTO: 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Montana Governor Steve Bullock speaks and answers audience questions during the Presidential Gun Sense Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., August 10, 2019. REUTERS/Scott Morgan

Cal Cunningham, a Democrat challenging North Carolina Republican Senator Thom Tillis, raised $7.4 million between April and June, up from $4.4 million in the first three months of the year, Cunningham’s campaign said in a statement.

Their race is widely seen as a toss-up and could be critical in deciding whether Democrats can seize control of the Senate in the Nov. 3 election, when voters will also pick between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

To win the Senate, Democrats need to pick up three seats if the party wins the White House and four if not.

Tillis’ campaign said the senator was not yet reporting his second quarter haul. Cunningham had raised more than twice as much as Tillis in the first quarter.

In Montana, political analysts see incumbent Republican Senator Steve Daniels as vulnerable to his Democratic challenger, the state’s governor, Steve Bullock.

Bullock’s campaign said it raised $7.7 million in the second quarter, more than twice what it raised in the first quarter when it also took in more cash than Daines’ campaign.

Daines’ campaign also said it was not yet reporting its fundraising total for the second quarter.

Sara Gideon, a Democrat in Maine challenging Republican Senator Susan Collins for her seat, said last week she raised more than $9 million in the second quarter. Collins has yet to disclose her fundraising total for the quarter.

During the first quarter in six states where Republican senators are widely seen as vulnerable in November elections - Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, North Carolina and Montana - Democrats raised more money in all but Iowa.

Outraising opponents is no guarantee Democrats will win back the Senate. Voter perceptions of Trump, whose term could be defined by his response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, could play a role in the fate of his party’s Senate candidates.

But this year’s election calendar favors Democrats, with 23 Republican seats up for grabs compared with 12 Democratic seats.

Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Tom Brown