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Burr Holds Fundraising Lead, But Ross Has Spent More

Steve Hammel (middle), vice president & general manager at WRAL-TV, introduces Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, (left) and former Democratic State Representative Deborah Ross (right) at the first U.S. Senate debate held in Durham on October 13, 2016.
Kara Lynne Wiley
Deborah Ross is challenging incumbent Sen. Richard Burr

Incumbent Sen. Richard Burr continued to hold a fundraising lead over Deborah Ross, his Democratic challenger for the U.S. Senate.

Through the third quarter in this election cycle, Burr had total receipts of nearly $11 million, compared to $8.4 million for Ross, though her campaign has been raising money only for about one year and his has raised cash since Jan. 1, 2015.

Though Burr holds the fundraising lead, Ross has outspent her opponent so far. She has pumped out more than $7 million in operating expenses while Burr has spent $4.4 million.

This is in part explained by the lead that Burr, who has been in the Senate since 2005 and Congress since 1995, currently holds over Ross in most national polls. As of Tuesday afternoon, election analysts at FiveThirtyEight gave Burr a 58 percent chance of winning. No slam dunk, but still a comfortable lead.

Richard Burr holds a fundraising advantage, but Deborah Ross has spent more.
Credit Campaign finance reports / FEC
Richard Burr holds a fundraising advantage, but Deborah Ross has spent more.

Ross has spent time in the North Carolina legislature, but never held a Congressional seat, so she faces a harder challenge simply to get her message to voters across the state. Recently, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has campaigned in North Carolina as much for herself as for Ross, in an attempt to bolster her chances of winning.

Figures used in this story come only from campaign finance reports for the candidates themselves, not outside money being spent to influence elections. In the years since the Citizens United case, it has become far more difficult, and in many cases impossible, to track spending by outside groups.

In comparing campaign finance records, Burr’s long history in Washington becomes clear. About one-third of his total campaign donations have come from special interest groups. More than 700 political action and other committees donated a combined $3.5 million to his campaign. Companies from across nearly every industry are represented including Wells Fargo, The Home Depot, Pfizer, Verizon, Aetna, Reynolds American, Tyco, and more.

By contrast, Ross has raised less than $600,000 from committees. Instead, nearly two-thirds of her donations have come from individuals.

To be sure, Burr has also raised money from individual donors, including from some of the Triangle’s top executives. John “Jack” Bailey, the highest ranking GlaxoSmithKline executive in Research Triangle Park, contributed $5,000 individually to the Richard Burr Victory Committee, and Robin Bailey, who lives at the same address as Jack Bailey, contributed $3,300 directly to Burr’s campaign. Other Burr supporters include Van Eure, owner of the Angus Barn, Elizabeth Dole, a former Senator, and Thomas Belk Jr., CEO of Belk Inc.

Ross has backing from top executives as well, including Adam Abram, president of the James River Group, Brooks Bell, CEO of Brooks Bell, James Blaine, president of the N.C. State Employees Credit Union, and James Goodmon, owner of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

Jason deBruyn is the WUNC health reporter, a beat he took in 2020. He has been in the WUNC newsroom since 2016.
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