Wisconsin Democrat Alex Lasry, who announced in February that he’s running for U.S. Senate, seriously out-fundraised his competitors during the first quarter of 2021, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
The candidate, son of Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, is on leave from his senior vice president role with the team. But his basketball connections have buoyed his fundraising haul.
According to filings, he collected almost $1.1 million through March 30. Among those who’ve donated are Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer, former coach Jason Kidd, general manager Jon Horst, president Peter Feigin, and co-owners Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan, along with some of their wives.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Chicago Bulls executive Michael Reinsdorf are also listed as donors. And beyond basketball, former Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, a Wisconsin native, and Detroit Lions player Romeo Okwara also contributed $2,900 each.
No first-time challenger has ever raised more in the first quarter of a Senate race in Wisconsin, according to Lasry’s campaign. Jessica Taylor, Senate editor at The Cook Political Report, said Lasry’s fundraising total makes a statement, but it’s too early to declare a front-runner.
“Sarah Godlewski got in after the … quarter had ended. We’re still waiting on several other candidates as they look at the race — possibly Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes,” she said. “And so we just don’t know how large the field is right now.”
In a news release, Lasry said he’s building a grassroots campaign, with about 85 percent of contributions coming from donations of $200 or less. Lasry has also received significant contributions from Wall Street, with Bloomberg highlighting donors like investors Jason Mudrick and David Einhorn. It’s no secret Lasry has lots of connections, Taylor said.
Meanwhile, Lasry’s Democratic competitors are lagging on the fundraising front. Outagamie County Executive Thomas Nelson took in more than $200,000 through March 30, while Wausau doctor Gillian Battino tallied fewer than $10,000 in donations.
Godlewski, Wisconsin’s treasurer, announced her U.S. Senate candidacy last week and was not required to file an April quarterly report with the FEC. She’ll have to file a second quarter report by July 15.
Things are also murky on the Republican side.
Despite receiving an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, Republican incumbent Ron Johnson has yet to announce whether he plans to run for reelection. When the Oshkosh businessman announced his initial U.S. Senate campaign, he vowed to serve no more than two terms — a commitment he said he’s leaning toward keeping.
“Even people I’ve talked to that are close with Johnson are not sure what he’s going to do,” Taylor said. “So (it) certainly seems like he’s holding this decision very close to the vest and has not given any concrete timetable on when he will decide.”
Johnson raised nearly $550,000 during the first quarter, according to filings. It’s not a total that’s indicative of an incumbent preparing for a competitive race ahead, according to Taylor.
“When you know it’s going to be a very tough election cycle and that he is the Democrats’ No. 1 target, you want to start raising that money early,” she said. “And it certainly doesn’t look like he has been doing that.”