Decision 2020

I-Team: Tri-State Voters, Donors Flood Red States Seeking to Flip U.S. Senate

The tri-state has been one of the biggest piggy banks for Senate candidates in 2020, pouring more than $70 million into out-of-state contests, according to a nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog


It is no secret. New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are BLUE states.

Pollsters fully expect our region's electoral college votes to go to Joe Biden. That is why lots of voters here are turning their attention to the U.S. Senate. New Jersey's Merv Turner is a resident of Scotch Plains, but he’s been spending his weekends mailing thousands of letters to left-leaning voters hundreds of miles away, encouraging them to vote in contests that where vulnerable Republican seats could be flipped.

"We're invested in Georgia. Because there are 2 Senate seats in Georgia. For the first time Georgia is in play,” Turner said. “What can we do to get those votes out?"

Turner’s letter writing campaign is a part of a movement called SwingLeft, aimed at 12 states where there is a chance for Democrats to gain power – not only by claiming Senate seats, but also by taking control of state houses where electoral maps and rules are made.

From their upstate New York home, actor Mandy Patinkin and his wife joined the SwingLeft effort – phone banking in places like Kansas.

"I'm an actor and the key word is act,” Patinkin said. “You can act right now in a very positive meaningful way to save our fragile democracy that is under threat in our country."

Tori Taylor, SwingLeft Co-Executive Director said tri-state voters aren’t only donating time, they’re making small donations that are adding up to vast cash advantages for Democratic candidates.

"Not only are you seeing the organizing and volunteering momentum on Democratic side,” Taylor said. “But that is also coupled with just insane amounts of grassroots donations that are really flooding into some of these races.”

The tri-state has been one of the biggest piggy banks for Senate candidates in 2020, pouring more than $70 million into out-of-state contests, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog.

Among the biggest targets for tri-state political money have been? The battle between Democratic candidate Mark Kelly and Republican Sen. Martha McSally in Arizona; the South Carolina contest between Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democratic candidate Jaime Harrison; and in Maine, the battle between Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic candidate Sarah Gideon. So far the, tri-state has shoveled at least $7 million dollars into each one of those races.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, most of the tri-state’s out-of-state donations are going to Democrats. But JR Romano, Chair of Connecticut’s Republican Party, says there’s a good reason for that: Republicans are outnumbered in the northeast, so they’re focusing their efforts and their money at home.

“We have a registration disadvantage so for Republicans we tend to focus a lot of our attention and time on what’s happening locally in order to make sure that we continue to hold our own in a state like Connecticut,” Romano said.

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