Fundraising picked up significantly in the eight open Senate seats over the first three months of 2004, with 10 candidates raising more than $1 million in the period and four bringing in better than $2 million.
Former Goldman Sachs vice president Jack Ryan (R) and state Sen. Barack Obama (D) led in total funds raised among open-seat candidates as both raked in mounds of cash to support their victorious campaigns in Illinois’ March 16 primary.
In North Carolina, 2002 Senate nominee Erskine Bowles (D) had his second consecutive $2 million quarter while Rep. Richard Burr (R) — his likely opponent — continued his solid fundraising by again cresting $1 million raised.
Similarly in Louisiana, Rep. David Vitter (R) raised nearly $2.9 million in the first quarter, while Rep. Chris John (D) brought in $1.1 million. Vitter transferred $1.6 million from his House account in the period.
Florida’s open-seat race to replace retiring Sen. Bob Graham (D) featured three candidates that raised more than $1 million: former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor (D), former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez (R) and businessman Doug Gallagher (R).
Neither party had an edge in overall fundraising in open seats, with a Democrat leading in cash on hand in four contests, and a Republican with the advantage in the remaining four.
Reports covering contributions and expenditures from Jan. 1 to March 31 were due at the Federal Election Commission by April 15.
Fundraising was more sluggish among the 26 incumbents seeking re-election, many of whom built huge war chests in 2003.
Of the 26, only seven brought in more than $1 million, led by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle’s (D-S.D.) $2.9 million take. He is the lone Democratic Senator in a tossup race.
Daschle’s opponent — former Rep. John Thune (R) — brought in roughly $2.3 million in his first quarter of active fundraising for the contest.
Daschle had $5 million in the bank to Thune’s $1.9 million.
Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter (R) was the only other incumbent to break $2 million in fundraising in his pre-primary report, as he seeks to fight off a primary challenge from Rep. Pat Toomey (R). The reports of both men span from Jan. 1 through March 7.
With his campaign machinery in full gear in advance of the April 27 primary, Specter disbursed the most money of any Senate candidate in the first three months of the year—$7 million.
Although Toomey continued to raise money at a solid clip he remains far behind Specter in the fundraising department.
His campaign raised $1.3 million in the quarter and spent $2.3 million. Toomey is getting a major boost from the Club for Growth, which is running independent expenditure ads attacking Specter throughout the Keystone State.
Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Patty Murray (Wash.) and Russ Feingold (Wis.), all of whom are mentioned as potential targets by national GOPers, raised better than $1 million each as they seek to solidify their hopes for re-election.
On the Republican side, Sen. Kit Bond (Mo.), whom Democrats believe they can unseat, brought in another $1 million, growing his cash-on-hand advantage over state Treasurer Nancy Farmer (D) to more than $4 million.
In terms of money left to spend in the final eight months of the campaign, New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D) continues to wield the biggest stick.
Schumer had $21 million in the bank, little of which he is likely to need to win a second term. The best-funded Republican candidate running against him had $142,000 on hand.
Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby (R) continued to lead the Republican Conference in cash on hand despite the lack of any serious Democratic opponent.
While few Senators were able to come within shouting distance of Schumer or Shelby’s cash totals, only one — Utah Sen. Bob Bennett (R) — had less than $1 million on hand. The office of Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) refused to provide his report, which had not arrived at the Senate records office by Roll Call press time Friday.
Megan Van Diver and Elizabeth Brotherton contributed to this report.