Final fundraising reports show Dayton bested rival in lower-spending Minnesota governor race

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ST. PAUL, Minnesota — Minnesota's campaign for governor last year was a bargain compared to the spending in the same race four years earlier, according to financial reports released Tuesday.

Final figures from the 2014 campaign show that Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton spent about $3 million last year toward his re-election, while Republican nominee Jeff Johnson spent $2.4 million. Three other Republican hopefuls combined to spend about $2 million.

In the 2010 governor race, which Dayton also won, he and the Republican nominee spent a combined $7.5 million, while a third-party candidate spent $1.3 million. The Democratic primary that year also was more expensive, with two candidates spending a total of $7 million in losing efforts.

Spending by outside groups also fell in the 2014 race. The Democratic-aligned Alliance for a Better Minnesota, for example, spent $5.7 million on 2010's governor's race, but only $3 million last year. However, outside groups shifted their focus from the governor to House races, which ended up flipping control of the chamber to Republicans.

The figures were published through reports filed by candidates, political parties and independent groups involved in races for state office.


The main campaign arm for Democrats in the Minnesota House spent $4.8 million on the party's failed bid to retain its majority, nearly double the GOP outfit's spending.

Fewer than two dozen of the House seats were in play, and Republicans won back 11 districts to flip control their way.

Candidates who accept a state subsidy to help fund their campaigns face strict limits on how much they can raise and spend, so their involvement in races was dwarfed by outsiders. But many outside political organizations focused on the House races, spending millions there rather than in the governor's race.

Pro Jobs Majority, an organization with ties to the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, devoted more than $1 million toward electing GOP candidates. The Minnesota Jobs Coalition spent more than $560,000 targeting DFL incumbents, mostly in rural Minnesota. The Freedom Club State PAC and Minnesota Action Network also had a significant presence.

The biggest spender on the Democrats' side was the labor-funded Alliance for a Better Minnesota, which spent $1.5 million supporting vulnerable DFL candidates or criticizing their opponents.

But the reports released Tuesday don't provide the full picture: Some political groups were structured in a way that allows them to spend money on races without having to disclose how much or who funded them. Legislation to close that avenue has been introduced but faces steep odds.


Some candidates who didn't take a state subsidy didn't need to go far to find support: They relied on their wallets.

Republican Scott Honour, a businessman in his first run, relied on $900,000 in personal resources to wage a campaign for his party's gubernatorial nod. He fell short in a primary.

Democrat Matt Entenza, a former legislative leader, kicked in $734,000 in his attempt to topple incumbent Democratic Auditor Rebecca Otto. He lost his primary, too.

There also were large donors who weren't running for office. Joan Cummins, known for pressing socially conservative causes, gave $750,000 to the Freedom Club group, while her husband, Robert Cummins, threw in another $75,000 to the heavily Republican group.

On the Democratic side, philanthropist Alida Messinger, who is Dayton's ex-wife, gave more than $550,000 to Democratic-aligned campaign funds.

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