Casten heading into primary with huge cash lead over opponents

U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, addresses political topics  during the LaGrange town hall held Saturday Jan 21, 2023.

As he campaigns for a fourth term in Congress, U.S. Rep. Sean Casten of Downers Grove has a million-dollar fundraising lead over the two challengers vying to defeat him in the Democratic primary for Illinois’ 6th District seat.

With early voting for the March 19 showdown beginning Thursday, Casten’s campaign committee reported having a little more than $1 million saved for advertising, consultants and other expenses that might come up in what’s left of the primary race, according to a year-end campaign finance report filed with the Federal Election Commission.

In stark contrast, Democratic challenger and Oakbrook Terrace resident Mahnoor Ahmad’s campaign had less than $4,200 saved at year’s end, records show.

A third Democratic hopeful, Charles Hughes of Chicago, filed a year-end report that only shows activity from last month and not the final three months of 2023 as required. Hughes is a three-time candidate who spent less than $10,000 on his unsuccessful 2022 campaign and didn’t file any fundraising documents when he ran for the 3rd District seat in 2020.

Year-end reports covering campaign fundraising and spending between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 were due to the FEC by Jan. 31. They can be viewed at

Casten’s quarter

The Casten for Congress committee started October with almost $840,888 in the bank.

It subsequently collected more than $347,420, including $233,444 from individuals and $107,000 from political action committees representing assorted companies, labor unions and special interest groups.

Casten serves on the House Financial Services Committee and he reported receiving $48,500 from PACs representing companies and groups in finance-related industries. Such donations – almost 14% of all the cash the Casten campaign received during the quarter – included $7,500 from the Credit Union National Association, $2,500 from the American Bankers Association, $1,000 from the American Financial Services Association and $2,000 from Bank of America.

Casten also serves on the Science, Space and Technology Committee. Corporate donations from those industries included $2,500 from AbbVie, $2,500 from Comcast, $2,000 from AT&T and $1,500 from Constellation Energy Corp.

Campaign spokesman Jacob Vurpillat said Casten is grateful for the support he’s received each election, noting the congressman already has received about $1 million from individual donors this cycle.

“Time and again voters have decided that Rep. Casten’s values best align with theirs and we hope they’ll do that again in March and in November,” Vurpillat said.

Team Casten spent about $146,807 during the quarter. That included $105,475 in operating expenses and $40,000 in donations to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other campaigns.

Casten’s campaign finished the quarter with more than $75,694 in old debts to the candidate.

Ahmad’s report

The Ahmad for House committee didn’t start fundraising until the year’s fourth quarter and pulled in about $5,875 during the period, reports show. That included two in-kind donations from the candidate totaling $740.

Ahmad received no donations from political action committees. During a recent candidates forum in Naperville, Ahmad said she’s refusing corporate donations and complained that the “obscene amount of money” companies spend on elections drowns out people’s voices.

“[We are] focusing on community-driven efforts rather than relying on big money,” the Ahmad campaign said in a prepared statement Feb. 2. “We believe in the power of community support and we are committed to representing the needs and concerns of the people of the district.”

The campaign also acknowledged what it called “initial fundraising challenges” and said it’s working to boost fundraising.

Ahmad reported spending almost $1,729 on operating expenses during the quarter. The campaign finished the year with less than $4,147 in the bank and no debts.

The Republican

The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Niki Conforti of Glen Ellyn in the Nov. 5 general election. Conforti, who unsuccessfully ran for the GOP nomination in 2022, is the only Republican candidate this year.

The Conforti for Congress committee started the fourth quarter with about $16,889 saved. It collected $10,280 in donations from individuals and no money from political action committees during the period.

It spent more than $17,806 and ended the year with about $9,362 saved and $8,000 in debts to the candidate.

Casten raised almost $5.6 million and spent almost $5.9 million to retain his seat in 2022. That required a costly primary victory over fellow U.S. Rep. Marie Newman, a more liberal Democrat from La Grange, and a general election win over Republican nominee Keith Pekau of Orland Park.

That Casten isn’t raising as much money now as he did in 2022 shows he’s “unconcerned” about his latest challengers, said Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois Springfield.

“[Ahmad] has raised almost no money and has only six weeks to mount a campaign,” Redfield said. “The only person running in the Republican primary has raised very little money and ran third in the 2022 Republican primary.”

Redfield expects Casten will raise “significantly more money” before the general election from sources who want to maintain good relations with congressional incumbents. Right now, though, deep-pocketed donors from outside Illinois have “no interest in this race,” Redfield said.

The 6th District includes much of the west and southwest suburbs in Cook and DuPage counties.