Roy Cooper and Dan Forest (copy)

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (right), is criticizing Gov. Roy Cooper’s (left) handling of the coronavirus in the race for governor.

RALEIGH — Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest recorded his largest fundraising haul in his gubernatorial bid, according to his latest campaign finance report. His numbers are still but a small fraction of the money Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has brought into his re-election campaign coffers.

The Committee to Elect Dan Forest said it raised $2.4 million for the roughly five months ending June 30 and had almost $2 million in cash. State campaign finance reports were due late last week and over time are being posted on the State Board of Elections website.

The Roy Cooper for North Carolina committee already signaled the wide fundraising advantage over Forest last week when it announced raising close to $6 million during the extended second quarter and had $14 million in cash on hand as of July 1.

Since early 2017, Cooper's campaign has raised $19.3 million compared to $6.9 million for Forest, according to their reports. Republicans have hoped that they could unseat Cooper, who won in 2016 by just 10,000 voters over then-Gov. Pat McCrory. Forest will likely need help from independent expenditure groups to respond in kind to an expected wave of TV and digital ads from Cooper and his allies.

Cooper’s reelection bid is already benefiting from outside help. The North Carolina Democratic Leadership Committee, a political entity associated with the state Democratic Party that supports Cooper and other Democrats running for Council of State positions, reported taking in $6 million from about 60 high-dollar donors and political committees during the extended quarter. Slightly over half of the leadership committee's contributions came June 30 from Democratic Action, a political action committee of the Democratic Governors Association, according to campaign finance documents.

The North Carolina Republican Council of State Committee, a similar group affiliated with the state GOP and designed to help Forest and other GOP council candidates, reported no donations during the extended quarter and has $891,000 in the bank.

Greg Lindberg, a Durham-based insurance company magnate, gave the Republican Council of State committee $1.4 million in 2017. A federal judge in March convicted Lindberg and another man of trying to bribe state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey, a Republican, in order to get favorable regulatory treatment. Causey was not accused of wrongdoing.

Forest's campaign reported making $196,000 in donations this spring to about 50 businesses, individuals and nonprofit groups for COVID-19 aid and relief. His campaign manager already announced in April such donations, but the finance report details the breadth of the “pay it forward” giving.

The largest donation of $15,000 went to Southern Roots Catering in Jamestown, while $10,000 or more went to restaurants in Roxboro, Dobson, Charlotte and Asheboro. In-person restaurant dining was prohibited statewide for more than two months until May 22. Forest's campaign also made donations to some local Christian mission projects, including Samaritan's Purse, led by the Rev. Franklin Graham.

Among other high-profile November races, sitting Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein had a huge cash advantage entering July over Republican challenger Jim O'Neill, the Forsyth County district attorney. Stein's campaign reported almost $2 million during the second quarter and had $5.8 million in the bank. O'Neill raised $264,000 and had $116,000 in cash.

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