Spartz faces fundraising challenge in 5th District reelection campaign

Gun Rights

Victoria Spartz’s late entry into the 5th Congressional District primary has put her reelection chances at risk as she continues to struggle to fundraise with one month to go until election day.  

Her most well-funded opponent, Gaylor Electric CEO and Noblesville state Rep. Chuck Goodrich, has raised more than six times what Spartz has collected, when including personal loans, so far this election cycle.

Federal Election campaign finance reports show the congresswoman raised just under $358,000 in the first three months of 2024 to Goodrich’s nearly $1.74 million, thanks in large part to a a $1.6 million loan the candidate gave his own campaign. That’s on top of the nearly $1.7 million worth of personal loans and contributions his campaign raised last year while Spartz’s campaign was idle.

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The challenge at the center of Spartz’s difficult reelection campaign is that the congresswoman gave herself just three months to raise money and make her case to voters on why she should have a third term representing the state’s 5th Congressional District, which stretches from Hamilton County to Grant County. Spartz filed for reelection in February, nearly a year after her announcement that she would not run for another two years in Washington D.C.

Spartz is aware she gave herself a short runway for this race, especially as her opponents had months on the campaign trail ahead of her. With under a month to go until primary Election Day, she faces eight other Republicans on the primary ballot who have criticized her reelection reversal and her record in Washington D.C., such as support for funding the war in Ukraine, where the congresswoman is from.

Spartz, though, despite attacks from her opponents, still believes her record in the House of Representatives, including advocating for health care oversight, fiscal responsibility and the creation of a commission to study the national debt, reflects why she is the right person to return to Congress to represent the 5th District.

“If I would have known that there was someone there that’s going to win that election and is going to be a great person who cares about the people and issues, I probably wouldn’t (have run),” Spartz told IndyStar in early April. “But I am.” 

To be clear, the person who raises the most doesn’t always win. In 2023, Republican Jefferson Shreve outraised Democratic Mayor Joe Hogsett in the race for mayor of Indianapolis, thanks in part to a $13.5 million donation he gave his campaign, but still lost the general election by 20 percentage points.

Spartz also already has built in name recognition. But is it enough?

In a typical Congressional campaign, the incumbent would lead their primary opponents in fundraising, said Chad Kinsella, an associate professor of political science at Ball State University.

“I think a big part of it is probably because she waited so long,” Kinsella said.

House Republicans boost Spartz

Some of Spartz’s friends in Congress are trying to help her close the gap. In an early April interview with IndyStar, Spartz indicated she turned to friends in Congress to help fund her campaign because she knew they could help with resources faster than other groups or individuals. 

Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, who Spartz voted for as House Speaker in October and Maryland Rep. Andy Harris both donated $2,000 to Spartz’s reelection bid. Friends of Matt Gaetz, the fundraising arm for the notorious Florida Republican who led the charge to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, donated $1,000 to Spartz’s campaign. A PAC tied to South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace, who was one of the key Republican votes that led to McCarthy’s removal, donated $5,000 to Spartz. 

“It’s much faster for them to help,” she said. “I have some colleagues that I’ve been in the trenches a lot. I served with them a lot. They know me.” 

2024 Elections: U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz is in. What that means for the race for Indiana’s 5th District

Spartz also received financial support from the House Conservatives Fund and the American Revival PAC, the fundraising committee for Speaker Mike Johnson, which gave $5,000 to Spartz’s campaign. 

One key group missing among Spartz’s financial supporters is the Club for Growth, a conservative advocacy and fundraising group, which was a major funder in the congresswoman’s initial run for the 5th District in 2020. 

That year, a Club for Growth political action committee donated just under $2.7 million to Spartz’s 2020 congressional bid, helping her beat out 14 other Republicans in the primary and then win the November election. The group did not fund Spartz’s 2022 reelection bid when she had no primary challengers and easily defeated her Democratic opponent by 22% in the November election that year

The Club for Growth did not respond to emailed questions from IndyStar about the 5th Congressional District, but the organization has not made an endorsement in the race. It is supporting other Indiana candidates, including Rep. Jim Banks’s U.S. Senate campaign and Sen. Mike Braun’s run for governor.

Dan Hazelwood, a spokesman for Spartz’s reelection bid, said the congresswoman is confident about the campaign and pointed to recent endorsements from Indiana Right to Life and the National Rifle Association.

“She is raising money from a wide group of donors particularly the grassroots who want her to win reelection because she defends conservative values,” Hazelwood said in a statement.

Final primary weeks

Goodrich and Spartz have traded jabs since the congresswoman joined the primary race in February — and it’s only going to get worse due to his fundraising advantage, said Kinsella of Ball State. Internal polling released by Goodrich’s campaign in early April shows a potentially tight race between him and Spartz, with 26% of voters still undecided.

While Spartz said she wants to focus on her record in Washington, Goodrich can negatively portray her record in ads, mailers and social media posts with the help of his deep pockets, Kinsella said. Goodrich has spent just over $3 million this election cycle while Spartz has spent $1.67 million, which included repaying a $1.1 million loan to herself.

“Name ID is good, but if you can take someone’s name and run it through the mud, it can be problematic,” Kinsella said. “Because if people know a name, and if you’re able to do kind of the things that Chuck Goodrich has been doing and associate negative things to that record or to that name, that negative campaigning works.”

Spartz’s campaign is firing right back. Just on Friday, her campaign sent an email to supporters criticizing Goodrich for a political ad about Spartz and her “bad behavior” in Congress, before asking readers to donate to “fight back” against Goodrich’s “smear campaign.” 

Spartz in early April told IndyStar that Goodrich has used money in his campaign “to spread lies” and “try to buy this election,” and that he has not experienced major political challenges like she has. In 2020, for example, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $1.5 million to support Christina Hale, Spartz’s Democratic opponent.

“He’s never been in tough trenches,” Spartz said. “I’ve had millions spent against me telling the craziest stuff.” 

In a statement to IndyStar, Goodrich’s campaign said Spartz has focused her time in Washington on “lobbying for Ukraine instead of securing the southern border.”

“Voters in the 5th District want a stable, consistent conservative working for them, not someone focused on Ukraine; which is why Victoria Spartz is lying about Chuck Goodrich’s conservative record,” the statement said.

The other Republicans in the 5th District primary include Raju Chinthala, Max Engling, Mark Hurt, Patrick Malayter, Matthew Peiffer, LD Powell and Larry L. Savage Jr. In a League of Women Voters forum in Anderson earlier this month, some of those candidates hit both Spartz and Goodrich for their negative campaigning in the race so far. 

Early voting started April 9. The primary election is May 7.

Contact IndyStar’s state government and politics reporter Brittany Carloni at brittany.carloni@indystar.com or 317-779-4468. Follow her on Twitter/X@CarloniBrittany.

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