Campaign Cash: Dems are betting big on Brad

Brad Pfaff is running up some big fundraising numbers.

The Democrat (pictured above), who is running against Republican Dan Kapanke for the District 32 state senate seat, raised $982,000 between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, leaving him with a whopping $814,000 cash on hand ahead of the Nov. 3 elections. Most of that total came from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. In contrast, Kapanke raised $275,000 over the same period, and has spent relatively little of that amount to leave him with a cash balance of $230,000 for the fall campaign.

Pfaff’s fundraising haul was the most raised by any candidate for state office for the fall general election up to September, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonprofit that tracks money in state politics.

Combined, the District 32 candidates raised $1.257 million between January and the end of August, making the race one of the most expensive campaigns for state office in Wisconsin. The numbers come from the Wisconsin Campaign Finance Information System.

Pfaff is also receiving considerably more help from outside groups in the race than Kapanke, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. In total, outside spending on the District 32 race has reached $217,000. That number includes $73,000 spent in support of Pfaff.

A group called A Better Wisconsin Together has spent $67,000 on ads opposing Kapanke. The group is a new outside electioneering organization based in Monona that spent $500,000 on digital ads in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election earlier this year in support of Jill Karofsky, who won that race. Additionally, the Wisconsin Conservation Voters Independent Expenditure Committee has spent $32,000 on negative ads against Kapanke.

But Kapanke’s campaign has been boosted by $45,000 spent by Americans for Prosperity in support of his candidacy. Americans for Prosperity is a libertarian-conservative political group that has long been funded by the billionaire brothers Charles and the late David Koch. Kapanke has been endorsed by the group, which he hilariously described in a press release as a “passionate grassroots organization,” despite its incredibly wealthy backers.

Dan Kapanke. Credit: Kapanke Campaign.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin, meanwhile, is betting big on Pfaff’s candidacy. It contributed $670,000 to his campaign in August, according to Pfaff’s September campaign finance report. Kapanke has not received a similarly large contribution from the Republican Party to date.

The two candidates do have some donors in common. Both recently received $500 donations from Xcel Energy’s political action committee (PAC) and $2,000 each from the Action Committee for Rural Electrification, which is a PAC that represents the interests of electric co-ops. Corporate and other special interest groups often hedge their bets when it comes to political donations, giving to both parties in an attempt to influence whoever wins the election.

Pfaff and Kapanke are running to replace former state Sen. Jennifer Shilling, a Democrat, who stepped down from the seat earlier this year to take a lobbying job with Dairyland Power. Kapanke previously held the seat but lost it to Shilling in the 2011 recall elections. He ran again for the seat in 2016 when he lost by less than 100 votes to Shilling. 

The District 32 seat is a key target for both parties and includes all of Crawford and La Crosse counties, almost all of Vernon, and part of Monroe County. Vernon and Crawford counties both voted for President Trump in 2016, after voting for President Obama in 2012 and 2008 by healthy margins.

One of the major differences between the two candidates is on healthcare.

Pfaff supports expanding Medicaid, which would give Wisconsinites greater access to an affordable, public healthcare plan. Asked by the La Crosse Independent what his plan for healthcare is, and if he would support expanding Medicaid, Kapanke’s campaign responded with a statement that said nothing about healthcare but noted that “before we talk about spending, we should be doing what every family was forced to do and that’s re-evaluate and prioritize.”

By Eric Timmons. Email questions to

Help us reach our goal of 100 members! Join today for just $5.75 a month. Click here for details.