Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent running as a Democrat, kicked off his 2020 presidential bid with a whopping $18 million fundraising haul in the first quarter, his campaign announced Tuesday.
The average donation was $20, the campaign said as it touted Sanders' continuing appeal to small-dollar donors.
Sanders' campaign chairman, Faiz Shakir, told reporters that 99.5 percent of donations came from people who gave $100 or less.
Combined with money Sanders had left over from previous campaigns, the total first-quarter number stood at $32 million. The 2020 campaign has $28 million on hand.
Sanders' first-quarter sum gives him the early lead in the 2020 Democratic money race. Sen. Kamala Harris posted a $12 million take, while the relatively obscure South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg announced he raked in $7 million.
The Sanders campaign also sees the senator's appeal to grassroots voters and supporters as a key to taking on President Donald Trump in 2016. Shakir said nurses and teachers were among the top backers during the first quarter.
"It reflects something about grassroots support for this campaign. It matters on how you're going to take on Donald Trump. He's put lobbyists in the White House," Shakir said. "You have either titans of industry running government or you have special interests running it. So how do you take him on?"