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Senators Stock Up For 2006

With almost three years to go before Election Day 2006, nine Senators up for re-election in the next cycle ended September with more than $1 million in the bank, according to an analysis of third-quarter fundraising reports.

Well out in front of the pack is Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), who had a whopping $5.4 million in cash on hand at the end of September.

Hutchison’s massive war chest and steady fundraising have further fueled speculation that she may be eyeing a primary challenge to Gov. Rick Perry (R) in 2006. She raised roughly $330,000 in the three-month period.

Under Texas law, Hutchinson is allowed to transfer money from her Senate account to a state account.

In 2000, she spent $3.5 million and won 65 percent against an unknown Democrat who spent less than $5,000 on the race. If she does run for a third term in 2006, Hutchison is not considered vulnerable.

A total of 33 incumbents are slated to face re-election in 2006, with 15 Republican-held seats, 17 Democratic-held seats and one Independent.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has already indicated he will not run for another term and is considered a likely 2008 presidential candidate. FEC records show Frist raised just $47.10 through his campaign committee from July through September, but he ended the period with more than $2 million in the bank, the third-highest cash-on-hand amount among his colleagues in the class of 2006.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) ranked second in cash on hand behind Hutchinson, showing $3.5 million in the bank.

Not surprisingly, former first lady and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) was the top fundraiser within the 2006 group last period. She raked in $1.3 million.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) had the second strongest third quarter of any other incumbent facing voters in three years. She raised about $970,000 in the three-month period and showed almost $1.9 million in the bank, ranking her fourth in cash-on-hand totals.

Feinstein resisted pressure from fellow Democrats to enter the California gubernatorial recall election, and a top aide said Friday that her strong fundraising total was not a byproduct of the recall antics.

“This was part of her regular fundraising,” explained Mark Kadesh, Feinstein’s chief of staff. “She is running again in 2006, and rather than wait until the next year or two she has kind of decided to take a steady pace, and that’s why she’s raised what she did this year.”

Behind Feinstein, Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) had the next best third-quarter performance for an out-of-cycle incumbent. He raised $552,000 in the period.

But Jeffords, whose defection from the Republican Party in 2001 handed control of the chamber to Democrats, also spent more than he took in for the period. His report shows $663,000 worth of disbursements in the quarter and he ended last month with $1.4 million in the bank, the fifth highest total in the 2006 group.

Rounding out the top five fundraisers for the period were Sens. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). DeWine raised $438,000, while Santorum, expected to be a Democratic target in 2006, raked in close to $380,000.

While the former first lady has an atypical fundraising base for a Senate freshman, Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and George Allen (R-Va.) had the next best fundraising totals among the group of Senators first elected in 2000. Both are also active in their respective parties’ campaign operations.

Stabenow, who raised $320,000 in the third quarter, is the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s vice chairwoman. Allen chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and he raised close to $250,000 in the quarter.

Allen’s counterpart, DSCC Chairman Jon Corzine (N.J.), raised just $10,000 in the three-month period, the least of all first-term Senators up in 2006.

He spent more than $60 million of his personal fortune in his first Senate race and has already donated $1.5 million to his re-election account, making it highly likely that he will almost entirely self-fund again in 2006.

Among the most anemic third-quarter fundraisers of those who have not indicated that they are likely to retire was Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.).

Sarbanes raised about $1,000 over the three months and had a little more than $9,000 in the bank at the end of September.

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) had twice that amount on hand, after raising $27,000 in the quarter. Kohl put an end to retirement rumors earlier this year, announcing that that he will seek a fourth term in 2006.

Sarbanes and Kohl were two of four members of the 2006 class to show less than $100,000 in the bank at the end of September.

Also on retirement watch is Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who was forced to resign as Republican Leader in December 2002 but vowed to serve out the remainder of his third term which ends in 2006. Lott raised a little more than $8,000 in the third quarter but had close to $870,000 in the bank on Sept. 30.

The new reports also showed that Sen. Maria Cantwell’s (D-Wash.) debt from her 2000 race has dwindled to $2.8 million, the vast majority of which is owed to herself.

After winning the closest Senate race of that cycle, Cantwell’s campaign debts still totaled nearly $4.1 million in August 2001, including $3.5 million owed to herself.

She raised $253,000 in the third quarter and had $194,000 left in reserve.

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