Democrats have an early fundraising advantage in most of the seven very competitive open-seat House races, an examination of recent campaign finance statements revealed.
House Democrats are also touting the fact that 16 of their candidates who are challengers or contenders in open-seat races outraised their Republican opponents during the first three months of 2004 — including several recent entries such as Diane Farrell in Connecticut’s 2nd district, Jim Stork in Florida’s 22nd district and Nancy Borda in the 2nd district in Kansas.
“We have more candidates who are in good shape than they do,” said Kori Bernards, communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
But several GOP challengers also outpaced Democratic incumbents in first-quarter fundraising, including Bev Kilmer in Florida’s 2nd district, Mike Soderel in Indiana’s 9th district and Goli Ameri in Oregon’s 1st district.
“Our challengers continue to run strong, and we continue to put more seats in play,” said Carl Forti, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
And as Democrats fight to pick up the dozen seats they need to regain control of the House, their advantage in open districts is minimized by Republican strength in five Texas districts where the state Legislature changed the boundaries to aid the GOP [see related story, p. 3].
In the Lone Star State’s two Member versus Member contests, the Republicans, Reps. Randy Neugebauer and Pete Sessions, held significant cash-on-hand leads over Democratic Reps. Charlie Stenholm and Martin Frost, respectively, as of March 31. Sessions had an eye-popping $1.9 million in the bank for his race in a new suburban Dallas district; Frost had $1.2 million.
In West Texas, Neugebauer had $727,000 to Stenholm’s $588,000.
Endangered Democratic incumbents did have a cash-on-hand advantage in three other Texas districts. But the Republican nominees have just come off tough primaries and will likely be able to replenish their treasuries quickly, with the national GOP so determined to win those seats.
Democrats have out-and-out financial leads in four of the seven most competitive open-seat races.
In the Colorado 3rd district race to replace retiring Rep. Scott McInnis (R), state Rep. John Salazar (D) had more money in the bank ($157,000) than any of the Republicans running. Based on money alone, the GOP race appears to be boiling down to a contest between state Rep. Gregg Rippy and former state Department of Natural Resources Secretary Greg Walcher.
In Louisiana’s 3rd district, former sugar industry lobbyist Charlie Melancon (D) had by far the most money in the bank on March 31.
But BellSouth executive Billy Tauzin III (R) — son of the current Congressman — is expected to formally enter the race soon and should have no trouble mobilizing his father’s formidable fundraising machine on his behalf.
The likely Democratic nominees in Washington’s 5th and 8th districts — businessmen Don Barbieri and Alex Alben, respectively — have also raised far more money than the Republican candidates to date. But the eventual GOP nominees should be well-stocked after the primaries are over.
In one open-seat race, Kentucky’s 4th district, a Republican, businessman and 2002 nominee Geoff Davis, had more money than the likely Democratic nominee, former TV personality Nick Clooney ($612,000 to $425,000). But Davis must first get through an unexpectedly tough primary with lawyer Kevin Murphy ($165,000 on hand), while Clooney’s fundraising is benefiting from the celebrity of his son, actor George Clooney.
Republicans had the cash-on-hand advantage in two other competitive open-seat races, but those numbers are hard to interpret. Hard-fought primaries in both parties are coming to a close in Pennsylvania’s 13th district in suburban Philadelphia, and the eventual nominees should continue their torrid fundraising pace.
In Louisiana’s 7th district, physician Charles Boustany (R) had a $60,000 cash-on-hand advantage over the closest Democrat, state Sen. Willie Mount. But the race to replace Rep. Chris John (D-La.) has been slow to develop, because John only formally entered the Bayou State Senate contest a few months ago.
Incumbents have the fundraising edge over their potential challengers in most of the races that have been targeted by the national parties — especially when it comes to money in the bank. The notable exception is in Indiana’s 8th district, where Rep. John Hostettler (R), whose fundraising totals are notoriously sluggish, had just $111,000 in the bank. His opponent, former Boston Celtics scout Jon Jennings, had $195,000.