TOPEKA — U.S. Senate candidate Barbara Bollier smashed the single-quarter fundraising record for any political race in Kansas history by reporting a staggering $13.5 million in campaign contributions during the third quarter of 2020.
Bollier, a retired anesthesiologist from Johnson County and member of the Kansas Senate, has vastly exceeded the ability of Kansas GOP candidates for U.S. Senate to raise money. The previous quarterly fundraising record for Kansas was $3.7 million, a mark set by Bollier during April, May and June. She’s taken in nearly $20 million so far this year and entered the final weeks of the race with $7.5 million cash on hand.
Republican nominee Roger Marshall, a two-term congressman representing the rural 1st District, has yet to announce fundraising totals for the period covering July, August and September. As a candidate for U.S. Senate, he collected a total of $2.6 million in the first and second quarters.
“I am proud of the grassroots campaign we have built with support from Democrats and Republicans, teachers and farmers, and folks from Liberal to Leavenworth,” Bollier said. “Kansans know that I am the only candidate in this race who will actually work across the aisle on issues that are important to them and their families.”
Super PACs aligned with Republican and Democratic forces in Washington, D.C., have committed to spending $7 million on behalf of both Marshall and Bollier through the Nov. 3 election. No Democrat in Kansas has won a U.S. Senate campaign since 1932, but the 2018 election of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and defeat of Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder in the 3rd District demonstrated Kansas Republicans were shifting to the middle.
In a Sept. 29-20 poll by the Republican firm VCreek/AMG, Bollier had a 3.5% lead over Marshall. Bollier was at 45.3%, while Marshall trailed at 41.8%. Marshall underperformed among Republicans in the poll, in part, because he had support from only 60% of registered Republicans surveyed.
“This is a dynamic environment,” said JD Johannes, president of VCreek/AMG. “With well-funded campaigns and multiple outside groups involved, the top line numbers are likely to change before election day.”
The contest for control of the U.S. Senate has grown in intensity as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden widened his polling margin against President Donald Trump and the president moved briskly to replace late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Bob Beatty, a political science professor at Washburn University in Topeka, said Bollier’s latest fundraising report demonstrated she tapped into the robust national pipeline backing Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate.
“It’s an indication both in Kansas and nationally of an incredibly fired up base,” Beatty said. “This is the Senate Republicans’ biggest nightmare.”
Beatty said the GOP was compelled to invest resources in Kansas to carry Marshall through the primary and to keep him competitive in the general election. Marshall’s candidacy may be hampered by his decision to remain unequivocally aligned with the president during a re-election campaign in which “Trump imploded politically,” Beatty said.
Bollier’s campaign messaging in the Senate race has concentrated on increasing access to affordable health care, the funding of public education and delivering aid to Kansans struggling during the COVID-19 crisis.
Marshall has focused on his affinity for Trump and attacked Bollier for a series of legislative votes in which she supported abortion rights. On Sunday, he denounced Bollier’s views on firearm training, licensing and ownership.
Bollier, who switched her party affiliation to Democrat in 2018, raised a then-record $3.7 million in the second quarter of 2020. That was $1.3 million more than the combined total of the top four finishers in the August GOP primary for U.S. Senate. The Republican contest won by Marshall also featured former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, plumbing company founder Bob Hamilton and former NFL player Dave Lindstrom.
Bollier said her updated finance report would show she entered the final month of the campaign to determine the replacement for retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts with an unprecedented $7.57 million in cash. She built the bottom line with 453,555 individual contributions during the third quarter that averaged $29.72, Bollier’s campaign said.
“I am humbled by the support I’ve received from hardworking Kansans in every corner of the state,” Bollier said. “They’re tired of hyperpartisan Washington politicians like Congressman Roger Marshall and are ready for a voice of reason who will take an independent approach to get things done.”
Bollier has has been endorsed by former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Kelly and nearly 100 Republican current and former elected officials, physicians and communities of color. Marshall, a physician from Great Bend, has been endorsed by Roberts, Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansans for Life and the National Rifle Association.
On Sunday, Marshall’s campaign took issue with an Oct. 3 video that recorded Bollier praising strict gun laws in Australia. In the lawn-chair chat at a park in the Kansas City area, Bollier said she supported the Second Amendment’s protection of gun rights in the United States. She also said a 1990s law in Australia requiring owners of 700,000 firearms to sell them to the government was an “amazing thing.”
She lauded Australia’s requirements for training and licensing of gun owners. As a member of the Legislature, Bollier opposed bills that made it legal in Kansas for people to carry concealed firearms without training or a license.
“Who thinks you can just go out and have a gun?” Bollier said. “You can’t drive a car without training.”
Eric Pahls, the campaign manager for Marshall, said comments about firearms were “disqualifying” for Bollier. “Even among Democrats, forced gun confiscation is an alarming concept,” Pahls said.
In addition, he said it was no coincidence Bollier released her fundraising totals one day after criticized by Republicans for her comments about firearms.