Rep. Josh Harder raised more money than every other freshman Democrat in his first quarter in office, and his second quarter numbers show he’s not slowing down.
Harder, D-Turlock, raised about $750,000 in the second quarter of 2019, according to numbers his campaign provided to McClatchy. He raised about $870,000 in the first three months of the year and has about $1.3 million in cash on hand as he prepares to run for re-election in 2020.
“These numbers are not normal, usual or routine,” said Mike Lynch, a Modesto-based Democratic political strategist who does not work for Harder. “It’s extraordinary the way he’s hit the ground running and never stopped.”
Harder’s district is one of seven in California that Democrats flipped from Republicans in 2018 and it’s shaping up to be a key battleground in 2020. He defeated four-term Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, in November and four Republicans have announced to return the Central Valley district to the GOP.
Three of those Republicans — construction company owner and Army veteran Charles Dossett, agriculture lobbyist Marla Sousa Livengood and San Joaquin County Supervisor Bob Elliott — did not provide their updated fundraising numbers when contacted by McClatchy. Those will be published by the Federal Election Commission next week.
Former Turlock City Councilman Ted Howze, who came third in the 2018 primary to Harder and Denham, raised $108,000 in the second quarter, according to Howze’s political strategist Tim Rosales. Howze raised about $32,000 in the first quarter.
He’s also loaned about $625,000 of his own money into the campaign. He has about $675,000 in cash on hand, Rosales said.
“Howze is going to continue to do what he needs to in order to win,” Rosales said.
Lynch said he was asked for advice by one of those candidates and advised against challenging Harder. Lynch said Harder hadn’t made any missteps such as focusing on polarizing issues.
“I told them, ‘I think this is a no-go,’” Lynch said. “If you want to bet the house on an election, I think Harder’s a guy to do it on.”
Harder’s campaign said about 4,000 people have donated to the Democrat, with about 80 percent of donations in the second quarter totaling less than $100. He’s benefited from ActBlue, the website that gathers small donations for Democratic candidates.
His campaign has an aggressive email fundraising arm, sending out requests for donations nearly every other day. Well-known Democratic figures such as Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra have also attached their names to his fundraising emails. His campaign also credited his focus on local issues such as water, health care and jobs.
“It’s my honor to have the support of over 4,000 actual people – and zero corporate PACs,” Harder said in a statement. “Folks from across the Central Valley have sent a clear message that they would rather have a representative working for the people than corrupt private interests.”
In the first quarter, Harder outraised most Democrats and all other freshman Democrats, even those with more name recognition such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, and those in more vulnerable seats, such as Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-South Carolina.