Kenley dominates fundraising, spending in District 20 race

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Sen. Luke Kenley has dominated his primary opponent in fundraising and spending.

The incumbent Noblesville Republican is facing political newcomer Scott Willis for Indiana Senate District 20, which includes parts of Westfield, Noblesville and Fishers.

According to the most recent campaign finance reports, which detail fundraising and spending through April 8, Kenley started the year with $253,393 in his campaign account and raised an additional $107,250.

He also has reported receiving an additional $50,500 in donations of $1,000 or more since April 8.

Willis entered the year with $6,224 in his campaign fund and has collected only $11,525 this year, mostly in $250 increments. He also loaned himself about $9,300.

Willis received three $1,000 donations, including one after the reporting period ended.

Most of Kenley’s large donations came from political action committees—more than 40 are listed in his campaign finance report.

Kenley also received $10,000 from the campaign for longtime Republican Sen. Pat Miller, who is retiring this year, and two $5,000 donations from David Shepherd, CEO and owner of Carmel-based Shepherd Insurance.

Not surprisingly, the six-term incumbent is significantly outspending Willis. Kenley has spent $182,098 on his campaign this year, while Willis has spent less than $15,000.

Most of Kenley's spending—$102,000—went to a TV advertisement made by Alexandria, Virginia-based advertising agency Sandler-Innocenzi Inc. He also paid about $43,500 for mailers and marketing material from Arlington, Virginia-based The Lukens Company.

Willis has mostly spent his money on advertising, marketing and media.

Political observers have suggested that this year could be particularly challenging for long-serving incumbents given the negative national attitude toward established candidates.

And if Kenley doesn't win, it wouldn’t be the first time a well-funded, well-known candidate has lost to an outsider. Former Senate President Pro Tem Robert Garton and former Senate Finance Chairman Larry Borst both lost when they faced upstart primary challengers.

The finance reports signal that Kenley is paying attention to the political trends.

Before the 2008 primary—the last time Kenley faced a challenger—he raised only $43,625, less than half of what he collected this year.

During the 2008 primary campaign, he spent only $27,361. This year, he’s spent more than six times that amount.

He also started 2008 with less than half of what he entered 2016 with in cash on hand. 

Willis, a 46-year-old Marine Corps. colonel, knew his biggest hurdle in this race would be funding.

“I went in eyes wide open,” Willis told IBJ in March. “When you’re running against someone who’s been in office as long as he has, you’re going to have to earn it.”

Primary Election Day is May 3.

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