Coronavirus pandemic cuts into House challenger political fundraising

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

New economic realities due to the COVID-19 pandemic are depleting campaign war chests of challengers who had just begun to see their political fortunes rise in their attempts to oust incumbents.

With more than 23 million unemployed amid the coronavirus spread, candidates have sought new ways to appeal to contributors on tighter budgets while complying with local social distancing rules.

Former New York Rep. Claudia Tenney, a Republican, is running to win back New York’s 22nd District, which she lost to Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi in 2018. Tenney, who first won the seat in 2016, has nearly 10 times as much cash on hand as her nearest primary challenger — but 5 times less than Brindisi, according to federal election campaign records.

Brindisi won the seat in 2018 by almost 2 percentage points and raised just over $1 million more than Tenney at the time. But in a central New York district where President Trump won 55% of the vote in 2016 to Hillary Clinton’s 39%, Brindisi is considered one of the most vulnerable freshman Democrats.