Gross campaign nets $3 million in new donations following Supreme Court vacancy

Sen. Dan Sullivan and Dr. Al Gross are facing off against each other in a race a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Sen. Dan Sullivan and Dr. Al Gross are facing off against each other in a race a seat in the U.S. Senate.(KTUU)
Published: Sep. 21, 2020 at 6:55 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has opened up a vacancy on the U.S Supreme Court and seen a flurry of donations to Democrat-backed candidates across the country.

Dr. Al Gross, an independent running as the Democratic nominee against Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, saw a huge surge in campaign contributions since Ginsburg died on Friday evening. His campaign says it’s netted $3 million in donations over the past three days.

“It’s a good chunk of money,” said Julia Savel, a spokesperson for the Gross campaign, just over six weeks out from the Nov. 3 election. “We’re looking at expanding all our campaign operations.”

The Sullivan campaign did not see a similar surge in donations over the weekend. “We did not actively fundraise on the death of Justice Ginsburg,” said Sullivan campaign manager Matt Shuckerow.

A major source of contributions to the Gross campaign was from Get Mitch or Die Trying, a campaign formed by the hosts of Democrat-aligned podcast Pod Save America. The campaign announced over the weekend that it has raised nearly $20 million to try to flip the Senate.

The donations are set to be split evenly among more than 12 campaigns across the country, including to Gross, which would mean his campaign has netted roughly $1.3 million from that one source since Friday.

Savel said the surge in donations showed the importance of the Supreme Court vacancy to Alaskans. “It shows people really care,” she said.

According to their most recent filings with the Federal Election Commission, Gross received $5.2 million in contributions from mid-February until the end of July. From January 2015 until the end of July 2020, Sullivan had received $7.2 million in contributions.

The next round of campaign filings is due in two weeks.

Ginsburg’s death was announced publicly shortly before Sullivan walked into Alaska News Source’s Anchorage studio on Friday.

“I think we should recognize Justice Ginsburg for her legacy and her career. I didn’t agree with a lot of her opinions but there’s no doubt she was an incredible legal trailblazer,” Sullivan said, choosing to highlight Ginsburg’s legacy.

Sullivan repeatedly declined to answer on Friday whether he supported filling the now vacant Supreme Court seat before the November election. “There will be plenty of opportunities to talk about next steps after this,” he added.

Sullivan’s office again declined to comment on Monday about the now-vacant Supreme Court seat. A statement from Alaska’s junior senator will be released in the “near term,” said Amanda Coyne, a spokesperson for Sullivan’s office.

Gross released a campaign video on Saturday morning, opposing the confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice before the election. “Dan Sullivan, we know it’s only fair to let the voters cast their ballots before we decide,” he said.

For Sullivan, the question of whether to support the confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nominee to the court could be complicated.

In 2016, he agreed with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R - Kentucky, to withhold a confirmation vote for Judge Merrick Garland who was nominated to the Supreme Court by then-President Barack Obama after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

“The decision to withhold advancement of Mr. Garland’s nomination isn’t about the individual, it’s about the principle,” Sullivan said in a statement in March of 2016. “Alaskans, like all Americans, are in the midst of an important national election. The next Supreme Court justice could fundamentally change the direction of the Court for years to come. Alaskans deserve to have a voice in that direction through their vote, and we will ensure that they have one.”

Some Senate Republicans, including McConnell, have said the 2020 Supreme Court vote is different than in 2016 as the Senate and White House are now both controlled by Republicans and that the 2018 midterm election saw the Republican majority increase in the Senate.

Over the weekend, Alaska’s Republican senior Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced her opposition to filling the vacant Supreme Court seat before the election.

“For weeks, I have stated that I would not support taking up a potential Supreme Court vacancy this close to the election,” Murkowski said through an emailed statement. “Sadly, what was then a hypothetical is now our reality, but my position has not changed. I did not support taking up a nomination eight months before the 2016 election to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Justice Scalia. We are now even closer to the 2020 election – less than two months out – and I believe the same standard must apply.”

Murkowski joined Republican Maine Sen. Susan Collins as one of two Republican senators who have publicly announced their opposition to a Supreme Court vote before Election Day.

With a 53-47 seat majority, Republicans can afford to lose three votes and have Vice President Mike Pence come in as a tie-breaking vote to confirm Trump’s nominee. If Democrats vote as a bloc against the confirmation, the confirmation vote would fail if Republicans lost a fourth vote.

McConnell has pledged to hold a Senate confirmation vote over a yet-to-be-announced nominee before the end of the year. He did not say on the Senate floor on Monday whether that would be before the Nov. 3 election or during a lame-duck Senate session held before Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.

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