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Rhode Island’s Chafee largely funding his own 2016 bid

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Donors have given just $30,000 to Lincoln Chafee’s Democratic run for president, leading him to acknowledge that Democratic competitor Bernie Sanders is filling the role he hoped to play in the 2016 contest.

Chafee lent his campaign $364,000, according to federal campaign finance filings. The former Rhode Island governor trails by a wide margin in fundraising.

The campaign for Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton said it raised $45 million since mid-April, while Sanders, a Vermont senator, has raised $15 million since he joined the race in late April.

“I always thought that there was fundraising potential for an honest progressive candidate,” Chafee said in a statement. “Sen. Sanders is filling that role at present.”

Chafee said through a spokeswoman Monday that he knows his fundraising has to improve and is considering hiring professional fundraisers. But spokeswoman Debbie Rich said Chafee is not questioning his viability in the 2016 contest.

“He is looking forward to being in Iowa with the other candidates,” she said.

The cost of running a successful 2016 bid is widely expected to top $1 billion. Candidates must file their initial fundraising reports, covering April through June, by the end of Wednesday.

Federal Election Commission filings show Chafee is running a shoestring campaign: He has just three paid staffers and he’s paying out of pocket for small expenses such as gas and Facebook advertisements, then getting reimbursed. With nearly $64,000 spent in the quarter, Chafee has $329,000 left.

Chafee, 62, has never run for office as a Democrat. He was elected governor in 2010 as an independent, and before that was a Republican U.S. senator. He became a Democrat in 2013 but a few months later decided not to run for a second term as governor.

Chafee surprised many when he formed an exploratory committee, then didn’t actively raise money or put together the infrastructure required to pay for a credible White House bid. During his formal announcement in Virginia in June, he called for the U.S. to switch to the metric system.

Chafee has visited the first primary state of New Hampshire a dozen times this year but hasn’t drawn big crowds.

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