Whitehouse re-election funds tops $2.5 million

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse speaks during an interview with Eyewitness News in his Washington office in January 2016.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Democratic U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse continues to hold a huge financial advantage over his two potential Republican rivals in his 2018 re-election race.

Whitehouse’s campaign said Monday his cash on hand totaled $2.56 million as of Sept. 30, after he raised about $584,000 during the third quarter. The latest financial reports were due to the Federal Election Commission on Sunday.

Two Republicans – state Rep. Bobby Nardolillo and former R.I. Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert Flanders – are both seeking the GOP nomination against Whitehouse, who is seeking a third term in the Senate next year.

Flanders, who unlike Nardolillo has yet to formally kick off his campaign, is leading the cash contest in the GOP. Marissa Martinez, his newly hired campaign manager, said Flanders’ cash on hand totaled $284,652 as of Sept. 30, after he raised about $164,000 during the quarter.

“Despite still being in the exploratory phase, we are very pleased with the support we have received,” Martinez said in an email. “We are off to a strong fourth quarter as well.”

Mark Zaccaria, a spokesman for Nardolillo, said his cash on hand totaled $36,614 as of Sept. 30, after he raised about $31,000 during the quarter. Zaccaria noted that more than 500 individual donors contributed to the Nardolillo campaign over the three-month period.

“That means our average donation size was low,” Zaccaria said in an email. “It also means we have a highly qualified list for the day, early next year, when we have to make a big bump in income in a short period of time.”

Whitehouse, who won a landslide victory in his 2012 re-election race, is seen by national forecasters as a strong favorite to win a third term. But Republicans note he will not be boosted by presidential-year turnout in 2018, and argue Hillary Clinton’s weaker-than-normal showing for a Democrat in Rhode Island suggests the state’s electorate may be open to a change.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook