The Democrat who wants to represent Charleston and the Lowcountry in Washington has five times more cash on hand than his Republican challenger, an eyebrow-raiser in a congressional district long-considered a GOP stronghold.
Fundraising reports filed Sunday with the Federal Election Commission show Democrat Joe Cunningham raised $265,025 between May 24 and June 30, and has $318,937 cash on hand.
Republican Katie Arrington raised $103,652 between May 24 and June 30, according to her report Friday. She ended the quarter with $61,773 cash on hand.
The fundraising figures add yet another twist to South Carolina's most-watched congressional race, and hint at a fierce fight ahead.
Neither Arrington nor Cunningham have previously run for federal office. But Arrington, a one-term state lawmaker from Summerville, surprised the nation when she triumphed over incumbent U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford in last month's GOP primary.
The seat is now an open one with the stakes high.
"It could be the perfect storm," said Rob Godfrey, a former top campaign aide to then-Gov. Nikki Haley. "You have a Republican tied to Trump who will have a hard time threading the independent but fiscally conservative conservationist needle that Mark Sanford threaded, facing a strong Democrat who has demonstrated significant fundraising prowess in a district where Trump may not be an asset."
The 1st District spans much of the South Carolina coastline from Charleston south, with boundaries wrapping around parts of Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Colleton and Beaufort counties. Key demographics include a conservative mix of retirees, suburbanites and military veterans.
Cunningham's campaign says the latest financial statements are a sign voters want something new and are shelling out their dollars in support. Cunningham is not accepting money from political action committees.
"We are grateful to the Democrats, Republicans and independents who invested in Joe's campaign to put the Lowcountry over party this quarter," Cunningham's campaign manager Mariah Hill told The Post and Courier. "From now until the election we will continue to talk about the issues that matter to the people of the Lowcountry: banning offshore drilling, overturning Washington’s job-killing tariffs and fixing our traffic nightmare."
The figures come on the heels of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last week adding the race to its "Majority Makers" district list of GOP-held seats the group is targeting in the 2018 midterms.
The DCCC has not invested any money into Cunningham's campaign, but South Carolina's most powerful Democratic politician, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, gave $1,000 to Cunningham on June 30.
It's not just Democrats who are taking notice of the race. The National Republican Congressional Committee last week added Arrington to its Young Guns "Vanguard" program, which aims to help candidates in GOP-leaning seats.
Arrington's campaign said they are not worried about Cunningham's lead in the battle for campaign dollars, noting she still pulled in a six-figure haul despite being in the hospital. When Arrington hits the campaign trail, she will do so in a wheelchair after she was seriously injured in a June 22 head-on collision. Ahead of an interview Friday morning on Fox News, she used the hashtag #RollingBackOnTheTrail.
Her first campaign appearance will be Monday at the East Cooper Republican Club luncheon in Mount Pleasant.
"On Monday, Katie will return to fundraising efforts in earnest and get back on the campaign trail to ensure South Carolina's 1st Congressional District is not represented by her pro-abortion, pro-open borders, anti-Second Amendment, tax-and-spend liberal opponent," Arrington's campaign spokesman Michael Mulé said in a statement.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., has promised to campaign on Arrington's behalf in September.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report still gives Republicans a 10-point advantage in the 1st District race, a number that has not changed since Sanford lost.