Sen. Duckworth gets a jump on the competition for 2022 election

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Tammy Duckworth's official photograph from her website.

Senator Tammy Duckworth is gearing up for 2022 by focusing on communication with voters. 

According to records obtained through the Federal Election Commission, Duckworth’s campaign has been spending funds with a focus on reaching voters through a mix of digital and physical mail sources. Three of the campaign’s top four recipients of funds for both the 2019-2020 and the 2021-2022 records so far are involved in physical shipping and/or printing: Linemark Printing, Prolist, Inc. and CHS Mailing, Inc., respectively.      

Together, these three recipients made up $1.2 million of expenditures from the campaign from 2019-2020. 

However, the campaign is making a firm increase in digital resources. Aisle 518 Strategies, LLC is a digital fundraising and advertising organization and, in 2019-2020, was the fourth-highest recipient of funds from Duckworth’s campaign. However, as of the first three quarters for 2021, the organization has topped the list of recipients, increasing from $338,000 to $468,000 for the first two quarters of 2021 alone.

Prolist is second on the list at $364,359 for the first half of the year. The three recipients in the top expenditures related to direct mail still account for $687,602 in disbursements in the first half of 2021. When compared to the first two quarters of 2020, all three are on track to receive more money in 2021. In the first two quarters of 2020, Prolist, CHS Mailing and Linemark received a combined $375,592. That puts this year’s numbers up by 83%. 

However, in the same time frame, the increase for Aisle 518 went from $66,000 to $468,000, an increase of over six times. 

Aisle 518 claims to be versed in traditional and modern campaign and fundraising techniques. And the Duckworth campaign is not the only well-known client of the organization, as Aisle 518 cites the Bernie Sanders campaign among other clients on its website.

One reason for an increased focus in digital marketing could be the COVID-19 pandemic and a perceived reluctance of people to leave their homes. The seven-day average of new cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, as of October 19, 2021 is at 2,197, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. This is lower than the 3,610 average from one year prior. However, it still shows a spike in cases, when compared with this past summer. 

In the last week of June this year, there was a seven-day average of only 249 cases of COVID-19. Governor J. B. Pritzker mandated masks inside all businesses and vaccinations for all healthcare workers later this summer, taking a step back in progressing the state out of pandemic regulations. 

With last year’s presidential election being conducted with a mix of in-person and mail-in voting as a result of the pandemic, it is not out of the realm of possibilities that future elections may take on a similar look, including Duckworth’s race. 

Rounding out her top 10 expenditures so far is a mix of companies and resources. Among these, legal services, accounting, credit cards, rubber manufacturing, and digital and social networking are spending categories. 

Some of these recipients are large companies, such as Citi business. Others appear to be smaller and have a shorter client list. L.E. Israel, LLC, for example, only appears to have records of dealing with the Tammy Duckworth campaign and PAC, led by Duckworth. 

Open Secrets, a website specializing in the analysis of campaign finance, lists the Duckworth campaign as having raised $10,493,004 as of June 30, 2021 for the upcoming election. Of that total, the campaign had spent $5,634,299 at that time, leaving them with $4,996,107 in cash on-hand. 

Ballotpedia lists seven republicans in the running to face off with Democratic incumbent Duckworth in 2022: Timothy Arview, Casey Chlebek, Rob Cruz, Peggy Hubbard, Bobby Piton, Allison Salinas and Eric Wallace. Of these candidates, the Federal Election Commission has funds for the upcoming election recorded for four with funds being raised this year. 

Chlebek is listed in the 2019-20 fiscal year for just under $40,000 and the FEC lists information this year as “still being processed.” Piton leads the way for Duckworth’s competition so far with $102,225. And Cruz is next with $75,547. Hubbard is at $11,338 and Arview finishes the current list with $900 listed as of October 29, 2021. 

This apparent gap in funding between the senator and her competitors is not a new occurrence, although there is still time for more fundraising on both sides. Data found on Open Secrets states that as far back as 2016, Duckworth raised $16.36 million against her top opponent’s $11.97 million. 

When looking at the 2022 election and the average funds raised by other Senate members, Duckworth more than doubles them. Duckworth’s campaign is listed at $4.16 million and the average Senate member is listed at $1.97 million. In both 2019 and 2020, the largest spending quarter for the Duckworth campaign was the third one, coming between July and September. 

This year, spending was again strong in the third quarter but not quite as high as in the second. The Duckworth campaign spent roughly $1.1 million in the second quarter of 2021. And they spent just under that amount in the third with $1,074,744.56. 

Duckworth is an Iraq war veteran and the first double amputee from the U.S. from that war. She was a pilot for the Illinois Army National Guard when she was injured. She retired from the military with a rank of Lieutenant colonel in 2014. She has served in the Senate for Illinois since 2017 and in the U.S. House of Representatives for two terms prior to that.

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