Monday January 06, 2014 | 07:51 AM

Shenna Bellows, the Democratic candidate attempting to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, has only been fundraising for a few months, but her campaign will soon be touting more than $332,000 in donations.

The campaign haul is for the fourth quarter of 2013, which is not yet posted with the Federal Elections Commission. Collins' fourth quarter filings also haven't been published.

Collins' campaign committee has taken in over $3.3 million between 2009 and the third quarter of 2013, a sizable advantage over Bellows, who is best known for her work as the former director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. However, the Bellows team is feeling good about its opening performance, particularly the number of small dollar donations and the fact that her campaign didn't officially launch until Oct. 23.

According to the Bellows campaign, 81.7 percent of the 1,771 contributions were $100 or less, while over 80 percent of her donations came from Mainers.

“Our fundraising represents our values," she said in a statement. "The majority of our contributors are Mainers giving $100 or less. One of the biggest threats to our democracy is big money in politics, so it is refreshing to see that grassroots giving can triumph over special interests from out-of-state.”

She added, “That is what a US Senate campaign should look like: local, grassroots-funded and representative of the entire state.”

The statement is also a jab at Collins, whose war chest is relatively split between individual donations (47 percent) and giving by political action committees (46 percent). Among the $1.5 million from individuals giving to Collins, $77,000 came from small dollar donors, who are defined as people giving no more than $200 during an election cycle.

Small-dollar donations matter to campaigns because they are sometimes viewed as an enthusiasm metric. That's not to say that Bellows won't need PAC money or dollars from big-time donors. She probably will. But small dollar donations -- and enthusiasm -- can help draw interest from big spenders if the candidate can show sustained small dollar giving. 

Some additional points for context:

• Bellows' fourth quarter haul is $41,000 less than Collins' first quarter donations in 2013; the incumbent has since stepped up her fundraising efforts, taking in over $1 million in the second quarter and $805,000 in the third quarter.

• Bellows' fourth quarter donations are nearly twice the amount raised by former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cynthia Dill in 2012. Dill raised $184,326, but of course, a number of Democratic donors ended up giving to the eventual winner in that race, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King.

• Bellows has drawn more money than both of the Democratic candidates for the 2nd Congressional district seat combined, state Sens. Emily Cain ($143,000) and Troy Jackson ($70,000). The flip side to that statistic is that Cain and Jackson could be dividing the pool of donors and many others may be waiting until after the Democratic primary to turn on the money tap in what is expected to be a high profile race.

• In 2007 former Democratic U.S. Rep. Tom Allen pulled in nearly $6 million during his unsuccessful bid to defeat Collins. Collins took in over $8 million and eventually drubbed Allen by 23 percentage points during a presidential and congressional election that turned out to be a Democratic wave year

• Allen formally launched his bid in May 2007 after much anticipation. His Senate campaign committee pulled in a little less than $400,000 during its first month of fundraising, including nearly $300,000 in individual donations.

Here's some more context from a reader, showing how much Collins' previous challengers, Allen and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, raised in each quarter:

2007 Q1 Tom Allen - $393,243

2007 Q2 Tom Allen - $1,084,666

2007 Q3 Tom Allen -$665,996

2007 Q4 Tom Allen - $812,841

2008 Q1 Tom Allen - $700, 809

2008 Q2 Tom Allen - $780,975

2008 Q3 Tom Allen - $995,539

2002 Q1 Chellie Pingree - $535,865

2002 Q2 Chellie Pingree - $374,867

2002 Q3 Chellie Pingree - $856,528

2002 Q4 Chellie Pingree - $706,843

 

 

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Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.

Steve can be reached at 791-6345 or smistler@pressherald.com.
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