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Support by the dollar: How Philadelphia-area donors are diving into the 2020 presidential race

Donors in the area have given roughly $2.7 million to the two dozen or so candidates who hope to be their party’s nominee. Joe Biden, Donald Trump, and Cory Booker brought in the most.

How Philadelphia-area donors are diving into the 2020 presidential race.
How Philadelphia-area donors are diving into the 2020 presidential race.Read moreJohn Duchneskie / Staff Artist

Jon Bon Jovi sent Cory Booker’s campaign $2,800. Lauren Hart, the iconic national anthem singer for the Flyers, donated to Elizabeth Warren’s White House bid. Heidi Hamels, wife of Phillies World Series MVP Cole Hamels, gave three times to help President Donald Trump win reelection.

The latest campaign-finance reports from the 2020 presidential candidates, filed last week, offer a snapshot of how the race is sizing up across the Philadelphia area. All told, donors around here have given roughly $2.7 million through June 30 to the two dozen or so candidates who hope to be their party’s nominee next year.

Individual donors are limited to giving a maximum of $2,800 to a candidate during each campaign cycle, one each for the primary and general election.

An Inquirer analysis of the Federal Election Commission’s data shows that the money race at this point in some ways mirrors current opinion polls. Biden is the top fund-raiser across the region — which includes Philadelphia, its four Pennsylvania suburban counties, and South Jersey — with about $818,000 in donations. Trump was next, with $731,000.

It’s too early to read much into the money totals in one state. Conventional wisdom says that half or more of the current Democratic field won’t be in the race by the end of the year, and the 2016 election stands as proof that even so-called top-tier candidates aren’t safe. (Remember Scott Walker? Jeb Bush?)

Among the many Democratic candidates this year, Pennsylvania is a fairly low-donation state, according to an analysis by the politics and polling blog fivethirtyeight. Ranking states by contributions, New York, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, and California gave the most to Democratic candidates. (Hillary Clinton won all three states and D.C. in 2016, while Trump won Pennsylvania.)

Campaigns are required to report an individual’s name to the Federal Election Commission once they’ve given $200 or more, though some campaigns report lower donations.

From the July 15 filing, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised the most overall among Democrats in the second quarter nationally, with $24.9 million. However, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ total increase in funding for the period was higher, as he transferred $7.6 million from his Senate campaign funds to add to the $18 million he raised.

Trump raised $26.5 million. Biden took in $21.5 million (he announced after the first-quarter fund-raising period), Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren $19.1 million, and Sen. Kamala Harris of California less than $12 million.

Trump is the top fundraiser in the Pa. suburbs and South Jersey

In Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania suburbs, Democrats received 68 percent of the donations but Trump collected the most of any individual candidate, with $488,344 to Biden’s $448,033. About 2,500 people gave to Trump, some multiple times, including John Giordano, a Philadelphia lawyer who worked on the president’s campaign and transition, and was a contender to be appointed U.S. attorney in Philadelphia. He gave the president’s campaign $5,600.

In South Jersey, Trump was also the top fundraiser, pulling in about $10,000 more than Cory Booker, the former Newark mayor and current New Jersey senator. Moorestown — one of South Jersey’s wealthier towns — gave the most to Trump, $23,451, compared with $2,132 for Biden and less than $1,000 for other Democrats. In Haddonfield, Mount Laurel, and Medford, Booker was the top recipient. (Moorestown voted 56 percent to 40 percent for Clinton in 2016.)

Insurance broker and Democratic political operative George E. Norcross III and his brother, attorney Philip Norcross, each gave Booker $2,800, records show. David Frascella, founder of Bizlender, a financial services company based in Middletown, gave Booker the maximum allowed, $5,600, as did three other members of the Frascella family. Together their donations make up 7 percent of the $337,000 Booker raised in the region.

Biden dominates in Philadelphia

Nearly half of Biden’s support in the region comes from donors who listed Philadelphia addresses, although that includes lawyers and others who listed a business address in the city despite living outside it.

Although he spent decades as a Delaware senator, Biden has made Pennsylvania and Philadelphia central to his campaign. The former vice president from Scranton chose Philadelphia to open his national campaign headquarters, and like Trump is expected to make the Keystone State a key part of his strategy to win. According to the contribution filings, his support in Philadelphia came largely from people who gave $200 or more, including Comcast executive David L. Cohen, Independence Blue Cross CEO Dan Hilferty, developer Carl Dranoff, and Dilworth Paxson CEO Ajay Raju.

Biden also received the maximum individual primary donations ($2,800) from restaurateur Stephen Starr, City Councilman Allan Domb, former Gov. Ed Rendell, and former Mayor Michael Nutter.

Some of those donations corresponded with two fundraisers here. An April 25 fundraiser at the home of Cohen brought in $472,176 spread across 317 donations, more than half of what Biden raised in the region over the last three months, the reports show. On June 11, the day Jill Biden held a fundraising luncheon in Center City, $12,300 came in.

Buttigieg also received some support from notable Philadelphians, including Paul Burke, an executive at the retailer Five Below, which is headquartered in Philadelphia; Thomas Collins, president of the Barnes Foundation; and developer and LGBTQ philanthropist Mel Heifetz, who also gave smaller donations to former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Booker, and Warren.

People living in the suburbs contribute the most

Philadelphia’s suburbs are both a key voting block and contribute the most to campaigns, with the highest donors living along the Main Line, particularly in Wayne, Villanova, Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Gladwyne. Biden received the most donations of any candidate in those zip codes.

Trump brought in more than half of his money in the Philadelphia region from the suburbs. He has made appealing to voters in those areas a focus of his campaign, most recently launching a national “Women for Trump” coalition in King of Prussia last week to try to increase his support among women.

Michele Cabot of Green Lane, Montgomery County, donated to Trump more than 200 times, all smaller-dollar donations adding up to $3,500. Booker got more than 80 donations from a woman who works as a horse farmer, Elizabeth Schellenger of West Grove, Chester County. Neither returned calls seeking comment this week.

Candidates aren’t due to file their next tally of donations until Oct. 15, covering the stretch from June 30 to Sept. 30. If history is a judge, by that time the race for votes and money could look markedly different.