Is Devin Nunes worried about 2020? He’s spending more than ever to run for office

Devin Nunes sues Twitter, account called ‘Devin Nunes’ Cow’

Republican Representative Devin Nunes of Tulare, California, is suing Twitter and parody accounts, including one called 'Devin Nunes' Cow.'
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Republican Representative Devin Nunes of Tulare, California, is suing Twitter and parody accounts, including one called 'Devin Nunes' Cow.'

Rep. Devin Nunes’ alliance with President Donald Trump is getting expensive for the longtime California congressman.

Nunes, R-Tulare, has spent nearly eight times as much money so far in this election cycle than he did at the same point in the lead-up to the 2018 midterms.

His campaign has spent nearly $2 million so far compared to just over $250,000 in the 2017-18 cycle, according to records published by the Federal Election Commission on Monday.

The difference in early campaign spending becomes even more stark when compared to Nunes’ earlier elections, before he was aligned with Trump, such as in 2015-16 when he spent less than $100,000 at this point. That’s 20 times less than he’s spent so far in 2019.

Nunes also is raising more money than ever.

He brought in about $1.8 million in the second quarter of 2019 for a total of about $3 million so far this year. He has more than $5.6 million in remaining cash on hand.

Rob Stutzman, a Sacramento-based GOP strategist, said Nunes’ spending does not necessarily mean the congressman is worried about re-election.

“If you’re sitting on that much cash, it makes sense to use it,” Stutzman said.

Nunes won his 2018 election against local prosecutor and now Fresno mayoral candidate Andrew Janz by about five percentage points, a significantly smaller margin than Nunes has won by in the past.

Nunes mentioned the narrower margin in a lawsuit he filed against Twitter in March, saying he had won by “sweeping majorities” in prior elections. Nunes blamed Twitter and parody accounts that targeted him for the difference.

Nunes aligned himself with Trump after the 2016 election during his tenure as the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence chairman. He frequently defends Trump on Fox News and still goes after the FBI and Department of Justice, which he says has bad actors that are trying to undermine Trump’s agenda.

The relationship raised Nunes’ national profile, making him a favorite among some conservatives but also drawing attention from Trump’s critics. Janz raised $9 million for his unsuccessful effort to unseat Nunes.

Nunes’ office did not respond to a request for comment.

Most of Nunes’ expenditures went to building his fundraising list, polling, advertising and consulting. He spent nearly $500,000 on mailers and postage alone.

“I think he’s learned he’s a big national fundraising brand,” Stutzman said.

Nunes’ challengers for the 2020 election have not been able to match his fundraising power yet. Phil Arballo, a businessman who announced his bid on June 6 and earned Janz’s endorsement, has raised $130,000 so far, according to his campaign.

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Kate Irby is based in Washington, D.C. and reports on issues important to McClatchy’s California newspapers, including the Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee and Modesto Bee. She previously reported on breaking news in D.C., politics in Florida for the Bradenton Herald and politics in Ohio for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.