Along with a boost from millions in independent dark money attacks on Gov. Kevin Stitt, Democratic challenger Joy Hofmeister’s campaign has been buoyed by a growing swell of small donors, a Frontier analysis contribution data has found.
Despite Stitt’s massive overall fundraising advantage, Hofmeister’s campaign has received more than $1.1 million from small donors who gave less than $1,000 over the course of the campaign. Comparatively, Stitt has raised less than $1 million from small donors, The Frontier’s analysis found.
About 36% of Hofmeister’s contributors were small donors who gave less than $1,000, compared to 12% for Stitt.
Katherine Bishop, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, which represents public school employees, said Stitt’s support of private school vouchers has helped boost donations to Hofmeister.
“What we know is our public schools are the hub of our communities,” Bishop said. “I equate those small donors to individuals that believe in their schools.”
The Frontier’s data analysis found that among all donors who listed their occupations as “education,” “educator,” “superintendent” or “teacher,” Hofmeister took the lion’s share — $187,304.19 , compared to $51,551.06 for Stitt.
Hofmeister also received more than $186,758 from donors in the education sector who gave more than $10,000, compared to $126,726 Stitt raised, The Frontier found. Hofmeister raised about 250% more than Stitt from donors in public education, while Stitt raised more from private education and service companies, according to the analysis.
Internal contributor data provided to The Frontier by Stitt’s and Hofmeister’s campaigns show that while Stitt had more total donors who gave $50 or less, Hofmeister had more donors overall to her campaign who on average gave smaller amounts.
Stitt received contributions from 9,041 individual donors, including 4,470 who gave $50 or less, as of October 31, with an average amount of $503.22 per donor, according to Stitt’s campaign.
Hoffmeister’s campaign has received 9,359 individuals, including 4,215 who gave $50 or less. The average donation amount was $182.11.
Stitt still maintains a wide lead in overall fundraising, amassing $8.2 million from outside contributors, compared to the $3.2 million Hofmeister has raised, The Frontier’s analysis found.
Stitt also had the benefit of a $500,000 carryover from his 2018 campaign and has been raising money for his reelection bid since January 2021, while Hofmeister did not announce her candidacy and began raising funds until October last year.
Facing a tight election and what his campaign has estimated as upwards of $50 million in dark money attacks, Stitt has also loaned his campaign nearly $2 million in the month leading up to the election.
Hofmeister’s campaign has focused on raising money from small donors, said Bridget Zorn.
“We are really feeling energized by a grassroots movement.”
Donelle Harder, Stitt’s campaign manager, said larger donors have allowed strategists to make media buys to help pull in more small donations. She said Stitt’s massive fundraising lead shows many Oklahomans trust him to continue running the state for another four years.
“Our campaign placed a really strong emphasis on making sure that every person in Oklahoma was communicated to and communicated with. Whether you’re a large donor or smaller donor, it’s the large donors who allow us to now go in and communicate with those who can give what they’re able to,” Harder said “We’re really proud of every dollar. We feel very strongly we have significant buy-in, even by those who contributed in small increments.”
Sitt leads in fundraising from top industries
Among larger donors who gave more than $1,000, the health care sector led contributions to both candidates, followed by the financial sector, construction, oil and gas and the retail and service industries, the data shows. Stitt showed a large fundraising lead in all of these top industries.
In the health sector, Stitt received the most donations primarily from individuals and groups associated with hospitals or clinics, followed by construction, the financial sector, oil and gas industry and service companies, according to campaign finance data.
Contributions from the construction industry showed the largest gap between the candidates, with about $823,000 in donations to Stitt compared to about $77,000 for Hofmeister.
John Smaligo, president of the Oklahoma chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors Political Action Committee, said Stitt’s efforts to keep the industry working during shutdowns of the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, his opposition to vaccine and mask requirements, and the general conservatism of those within the contracting industry, were key factors in driving donations.
Contributions from the industry, particularly from those who specialize in road and highway projects, typically break toward the incumbent, Smaligo said.
“Another major factor, of course, is the fact that Kevin Stitt is a businessman,” Smaligo said. “He’s been very successful in the business world, he has not been a politician before being governor. And so a lot of these contractors like to support somebody who is like them, who is a proven businessman, someone who is successful in the business world.”
Meanwhile, Hofmeister garnered more donations from attorneys than Stitt. The legal profession is traditionally considered a major donor base for Democrats.
The bad blood between the state’s tribal nations and Gov. Kevin Stitt over issues ranging from gaming compacts to tribal sovereignty, has also spilled over into campaign contributions.
None of Stitt’s large campaign contributors include tribal nations or tribal nation employees, the records show.
But donations from tribes and tribal citizens make up a significant portion of funding for Hofmeister’s campaign, accounting for close to $100,000 in contributions.
Both campaigns said they were pleased with their respective momentum going into the final days of the campaign.
“The governor is very honored and humbled by outraising every other statewide candidate, as well as what happened in 2018,” Harder said. “He feels the momentum from people on the ground, and every dollar matters. It demonstrates people are bought into what he was elected to do, which is put our state on a whole new trajectory for the next several generations.”
While Hofmeister’s campaign has brought in much less money than Stitt’s, her campaign workers say they are feeling the wind at their back in the final stretch before election day.
“What we’ve been doing in September, October and leading up to election day is what we’ve been doing for over a year now, which is visiting hometowns, visiting folks in their homes, in diners and just really energizing that grassroots base of support,” said Zorn, Hofmeister’s campaign manager. “The lower-dollar donors (numbers), that tells me our message is resonating at a grassroots level.”