BISMARCK - The Democratic candidate for North Dakota's lone U.S. House seat has fired his campaign consultants after racking up more than $50,000 in debt and is "going it alone" until the November election, he said Monday.
Chase Iron Eyes, a Fort Yates attorney and American Indian activist who is challenging a two-term incumbent in Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, reported $30,866 in cash on hand and $53,378 in campaign debt on his April-through-June quarterly report filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Iron Eyes said he has since trimmed the debt to about $12,000 and has upward of $20,000 in cash on hand after laying off his out-of-state campaign consultants.
"I was convinced that I needed an advisor, and these advisors brought other advisors who all cost a great deal of money," he said, adding, "I didn't get into this to drag my family through the whole process to end up in debt because of outside consultants."
His only remaining paid staffer is his FEC compliance officer, he said.
Iron Eyes declined to name the consultants he let go. His FEC report listed $8,750 in campaign management fees paid to Jaime Peters of Manorville, N.Y.; $13,000 to The Winding Creek Group of Chesterfield, Mo., for website design services; $5,500 to Focus Matters of Oklahoma City, Okla., and $3,500 to New Blue Interactive of Washington, D.C., for online fundraising consulting fees; and $1,750 to Lincoln Park Strategies of Washington, D.C., for polling.
Fundraising has been slower than he hoped, he said, noting he doesn't have the name recognition of Cramer's 2012 opponent, state Rep. George Sinner of Fargo, son of the former governor by the same name. Financial support from the state Democratic-NPL Party has been limited to office space, he said, though he added the party "has helped where they can."
Iron Eyes listed $82,126 in contributions on his quarterly report, compared with $1.07 million for Cramer, who also ended the period with $677,065 in cash on hand and only $2,710 in debt. Libertarian candidate Jack Seaman reported $725 in contributions and $721 in cash on hand with no debt.
Cramer, whose lone paid staffer is his campaign manager and wife, Kris, said by phone Monday that he has some empathy for what Iron Eyes is going through, having run against incumbents twice before.
"It's not easy to pique people's interest and raise contributions when you're not likely to be successful," he said, adding running an effective campaign is the first sign of whether someone will be effective in Congress, "and I think that's not unimportant."
Iron Eyes said he hopes to raise enough money in the next 30 days to mount a "serious ground game." He launched a new campaign website at ironeyesforcongress.us and is hopeful that last week's federal court ruling suspending North Dakota's recently passed voter ID laws will boost turnout among Native Americans who support him.
He's also hoping for at least two debates beyond the only one scheduled so far, with Prairie Public Television in early October. Cramer said he's also open to more debates.