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Lehigh Valley Election News

Lehigh Valley congressional candidates spend $1.6M and it's not even the primary yet

Susan Wild
AP Photo
U.S. Rep. Susan Wild has spent more than $1 million on her 2024 re-election campaign through April 2, according to campaign finance reports. She's seeking re-election in one of the most

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct an error regarding debts and loans incurred by the Dellicker campaign.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Pennsylvania hasn't hosted its 2024 primary election yet, but the four candidates for the Lehigh Valley's congressional seat have already spent a fortune in their efforts to win it.

The latest campaign finance reports show Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Susan Wild and three Republican challengers — Kevin Dellicker, Ryan Mackenzie and Maria Montero — spent more than $661,582 on consultants, mailers, staff and fundraising so far in 2024.

Throw in the their spending from 2023, and that figure jumps to $1.6 million.

Wild accounts for over $1 million of that total while the three Republican campaigns combine for a little over $560,400.

Kevin Dellicker

Dellicker, an intelligence officer with the Air National Guard, has spent more than $241,900 since January, dwarfing Mackenzie and Montero's spending over the same time period.

He was able to offset that by raising just over $205,600 over the same time period — $95,000 of which came from donations of less than $250, according to his filings with the Federal Election Commission. Dellicker has $169,383 on hand, the most among the three Republican candidates, according to his most recent campaign finance report.

Some of that funding has come out of his own pocket. Since he announced his first run for Congress in 2022, Dellicker has loaned his campaigns $142,800. He was also the only candidate with significant debt, owing vendors more than $48,600, according to the report.

PA 7 Republican candidates
Ryan Mackenzie, Maria Montero and Kevin Dellicker (pictured, left to right) are the Republican candidates running for the U.S. House Pennsylvania District 7.

Ryan Mackenzie

Meanwhile, Mackenzie has augmented his campaign's reach thanks to financial support from a super PAC. Americans for Prosperity Action, a group founded by conservative mega-donor Charles Koch, spent a total of $132,700 on Mackenzie's behalf in January and February, according to campaign finance reports; AFP Action has not filed its March report yet.

Combined with the $88,600 Mackenzie reported spending, the groups have spent more than $221,300 promoting Mackenzie since January. His campaign had $117,145 on hand and no outstanding debts when reports were due earlier this month.

WATCH: Meet the GOP candidates in PBS39's 'PA-7 Primary' at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 16

While voters' ballots will ultimately determine who emerges with the Republican Party's nomination, campaign dollars play a critical role in the races. More money allows campaigns to hire more staff, pay for more advertising and acquire more resources leading up the election.

While dedicated grassroot campaigns can defeat richer opponents, it typically requires strong coordination, planning and messaging.

Maria Montero

Montero's campaign may be banking on that in the days before the Tuesday, April 23, primary.

Her filings showed she lagged behind her opponents, spending just $37,714 in the first three months of 2024. Some late updates from over the weekend suggest she has a little over $94,200 on hand. Her largest donor this quarter was Value in Electing Women; the conservative hybrid PAC provided her campaign with $10,000.

But Montero has also received some high-profile attention in recent weeks that doesn't come with dollar signs attached.

Vivek Ramaswamy, the billionaire entrepreneur and former Republican presidential nominee, endorsed her earlier this month. She was also the only PA-7 candidate to be mentioned by name from the stage at former President Donald Trump's campaign rally in Schnecksville on Saturday night. While introducing Trump to the crowd, U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser, R-9th District, described Montero as someone capable of defeating Wild. Meuser has endorsed Montero and donated to her campaign.

Susan Wild

Whoever emerges from the Republican primary will need to find ways to compete with Wild's deep pockets.

She raised $1.3 million in 2024's first quarter, according to her most recent campaign finance report. Wild has no challenger in the Democratic primary, allowing the three-term congresswoman to stockpile $2.6 million as she heads to the general election.

She spent more than $293,300 between January 1 and April 2, according to her filings.

More than $750,000 of Wild's new funding came from individuals who donated more than $250. Her largest donor this quarter appears to be DigiDems PAC, a hybrid PAC that supports Democrats in competitive districts. The group provided Wild's campaign with $13,200 in the past three months.

A battleground

Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District is one of the most hotly contested races in the nation. The district, which includes Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton counties plus a sliver of Monroe County, has a near equal number of registered Democrats and Republicans.

Political observers have labeled it one of about two dozen toss-up congressional seats in the U.S.

The U.S. House has been narrowly divided the past four years, making PA-7 all the more valuable to political parties grappling for the majority.

As a result, campaign spending has skyrocketed in the region. The nonprofit OpenSecrets, which tracks campaign spending at the federal level, reports the Lehigh Valley's 2022 congressional race saw a total of $34.5 million spent between the candidates and outside groups — the sixth-highest amount in the country.