Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth with giant fund-raising lead over GOP challenger Kathy Salvi,

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Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., left, is seeking a second term. Republican challenger Kathy Salvi is a personal injury attorney from Mundelein. Polls show Duckworth with a large lead.

.Sun-Times file (Duckworth); Lynn Sweet (Salvi)

WASHINGTON — Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., seeking a second term, holds a giant fundraising lead over Republican challenger Kathy Salvi — about $18 million to some $1 million — according to the new Federal Election Commission reports posted Sunday.

FEC campaign fundraising figures through Sept. 30 reveal that national Republicans have abandoned Salvi when it comes to sending substantial campaign cash her way, the result of brutal political triage whereby meaningful financial help only flows to candidates deemed to be within striking distance of winning.

Duckworth faced no challenger in the June 28 Democratic primary, letting her save considerable political money. Her campaign financials, as of Sept. 30:

Raised — $17,899,219

Spent — $11,406,038

Cash-on-hand — $7,631,025

Third-quarter — July, August, September — receipts: $2,276,242

Third-quarter disbursements — $2,626,870

Salvi had to fund a June 28 primary bid, where she came in first in a seven-way GOP contest, clinching the nomination with 30.23% of the vote. Her campaign financials, as of Sept. 30:

Raised — $1,084,674

Total personal loans Salvi made to her primary and general campaigns — $450,000

Spent — $880,959

Cash on hand — $203,755

Third-quarter receipts (including Salvi’s general election personal loan of $200,000) —$649,970

Third-quarter disbursements: $511,908

The FEC report filed by Libertarian Bill Redpath of West Dundee shows he raised $73,936 for his bid, spent $64,853 and as of Sept. 30 only had $9,082 cash on hand.

When Salvi made an unsuccessful House bid in 2006, she put at least $1.237 million of her own money into her campaign.

Salvi is dealing with a reality of political fundraising.

With Democrats controlling the 50-50 Senate only because of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote, major GOP political operations want to donate to nominees seen as having a chance. A Sun-Times/WBEZ poll put Duckworth at 50%, beating Salvi, at 36%, Redpath at 5% with 9% undecided.

In an interview with the Sun-Times before the latest FEC numbers were released, Salvi, a personal injury attorney from Mundelein, was asked about the considerable fundraising advantage held by Duckworth, from Hoffman Estates.

“I know that money is important, but I think I’m the right candidate at the right time with the right message against the right opponent,” Salvi said.

She added, her campaign has “done a really good job, I think, with targeting the money that we’ve raised in an effective way.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee — called the NRSC in political shorthand — is the Senate Republican political operation, chaired by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. Salvi talks to Scott on a regular basis, and the NRSC has helped her outreach to Hispanic voters.

Getting campaign contributions from the NRSC is another matter.

Ron Gidwitz is a Chicago business executive and long-time major GOP fundraiser for Illinois and national candidates. He served as former President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Belgium and acting ambassador to the European Union.

Gidwitz is the NRSC’s national finance chair — and helped recruit Salvi into the race. But even a longtime personal relationship with a candidate only goes so far.

In an interview with the Sun-Times, Gidwitz explained why the NRSC has not — as of Sunday— put any money into Salvi’s race.

It’s a vivid, Illinois example of pragmatic politics.

“We have scarce resources, like everybody else does,” Gidwitz said. “And so we’re spending them where we have the greatest likelihood of success. I have not seen polls showing Kathy within the margin of error.” (The Sun-Times/WBEZ poll has a 3.5% plus or minus margin of error.)

“…We have candidates that are plus or minus in the margin of error, those are the most likely candidates that are going to get the support from the NRSC and from other organizations,” a reference I took to mean GOP-allied political action committees.

If the dynamics of the Illinois race were to change — and the Salvi-Duckworth race were to become close — the NRSC would take a “good hard look.”

Salvi is a “great candidate,” Gidwitz said, “but we’re very practical.”

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October 16, 2022 at 10:39PM

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