U.S. Senate challenger Al Gross rakes in $9M

Dr. Al Gross in Ketchikan in 2019 (Leila Kheiry/KRBD)

U.S. Senate candidate Al Gross raised a record $9.1 million since July 1 — more than he or incumbent Sen. Dan Sullivan brought in during the first half of the year.

Gross campaign spokeswoman Julia Savel said Alaskans are demonstrating that they want to oust Sullivan, a Republican.

“This large fundraising haul just shows how much grassroots momentum there is throughout the state,” she said.

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The deadline for filing third-quarter reports isn’t until next week, so there’s not much data available yet. For instance, Savel couldn’t say how much of the total came from out-of-state donors.

Nationally, Democratic campaigns and fundraising organizations reported a flood of contributions in September. Act Blue, a fundraising platform that’s like PayPal for Democratic candidates, said it shattered records in the days after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And the Gross campaign benefitted from that wave.

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Savel said “a big chunk” of the campaign’s quarterly total came via Act Blue. And she said the campaign received $3 million in the three days after Ginsburg died.

A man speaks at a podium
Senator Dan Sullivan at the August 26, 2020, opening ceremony for the Operation Lady Justice Task Force Cold Case Office in Anchorage. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

“What that really shows is that Alaskans want a voice in the Senate, and Dan Sullivan is just not that,” she said.

The Sullivan campaign isn’t ready to announce its quarterly total. Until now, it has led in fundraising. Sullivan campaign manager Matt Shuckerow pivoted to an underdog message. 

“It’s safe to say that we’re being outraised and outspent by a margin of over 5-to-1,” he said.

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Shuckerow hasn’t seen Gross’s latest donor list, either, but he said we can assume most of the $9 million haul comes from outside Alaska.

“It’s from liberal Lower 48 donors, who for them this isn’t about Alaska,” Shuckerow said. “This is everything to do about them and retaking control of the U.S. Senate, flipping Alaska blue.”

At least two polls suggest it could be a close race, though the latest to be made public, by Alaska Survey Research, shows Sullivan up 4 percentage points over Gross, a nonpartisan candidate who is the Democratic Party’s nominee.

Until now, the most expensive contest in state history was Sullivan’s 2014 race. He raised a total of $8 million to beat Democrat Mark Begich, who raised $11 million for the cyle. But in 2014, the campaigns were dwarfed by independent expenditures, by groups that run their own ads and otherwise try to influence the race that aren’t allowed to coordinate with the candidates. 

So far, the independent groups have not been so active this time — likely because Sullivan had been heavily favored to win.