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Shaky House Members Are in the Money

Potentially vulnerable House Members began the 2006 election cycle raising money at a furious pace.

In the first three months of the year, the 39 Members who won their 2004 races with 55 percent of the vote or less collected an average of $206,000, according to a Roll Call analysis of new Federal Election Commission reports.

Nine of them — eight Republicans and one Democrat — pulled in more than $300,000 in the first quarter of 2005.

In each party, the list was led by two freshmen who are all but certain to face credible opponents.

Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) collected $492,000 through March 31 and had a muscular $639,000 in the bank. Fitzpatrick, who won a late developing open-seat race to succeed then-Rep. Jim Greenwood (R-Pa.), represents a suburban Philadelphia district that gave Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) a 3-point victory over President Bush in the presidential election.

Fitzpatrick took 55 percent of the vote against an underfunded Democratic opponent who had initially been considered a sacrificial lamb against Greenwood but who remained in the contest after the Congressman departed. In 2006, Democrats are likely to recruit a top-tier challenger.

Among potentially vulnerable House Democrats, freshman Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) led the fundraising charge, taking in $455,000 from Jan. 1 to March 31 and banking $359,000. Bean’s 52 percent to 48 percent victory over veteran Rep. Phil Crane (R-Ill.) last year was seen more as a referendum on Crane, whom Democrats successfully painted as out of touch, than a victory for the challenger.

The Chicago-area suburban district gave Bush a decisive 12-point victory over Kerry, leaving Bean as one of the most vulnerable incumbents of the cycle. Illinois Republican leaders are already vowing to cooperate with one another in their quest to find the strongest possible challenger.

Other top Republicans on the list were Rep. Jon Porter (Nevada), who raised $471,000 and had $503,000 on hand; House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas), $458,000 and $315,000; Rep. Dave Reichert (Wash.), $420,000 and $376,000; Rep. Katherine Harris (Fla.), $411,000 and $253,000; Rep. Mike Sodrel (Ind.), $397,000 and $333,000; Rep. Jim Gerlach (Pa.), $392,000 and $466,000; and Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (Colo.), $389,000 and $422,000.

Of that group, Porter may be the safest following two stronger-than-expected victories in a suburban Las Vegas district that was drawn to produce a fair fight between the two parties.

Harris is a favorite for re-election in her Sarasota-area district, but may end up using the money for a Senate bid in 2006.

DeLay’s district is solidly Republican, but his ethical woes could be a factor in his re-election (see related story, page 11). And Musgrave remains the favorite in her conservative district in eastern Colorado.

But Gerlach, Sodrel and Reichert could all have tough races next year.

Seeking a second term in 2004, Gerlach took 51 percent of the vote in a Philadelphia-area district that preferred Kerry to Bush by 4 points. He may face a rematch with the 2004 Democratic nominee, attorney Lois Murphy, who has not raised any money yet this cycle but had $23,000 left over from her last campaign as of March 31.

Sodrel, a freshman who narrowly defeated then-Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.) after losing to Hill two years earlier in the southeastern Indiana district, could face Hill for a third time in 2006. The former Congressman had just $9,400 in his still-open account.

Reichert’s haul this cycle is noteworthy because he was not considered a stellar fundraiser in his maiden Congressional campaign last year. A former King County sheriff, Reichert could face a tough challenge in the Seattle-area 8th district, which preferred Kerry to Bush by 3 points last year. Democrats have no strong early candidate in the race, however.

Meanwhile, several potentially vulnerable Democrats are gearing up for tough challenges.

Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas), the only one of five targeted Lone Star State Democrats to survive in 2004, took in $257,000 in the first three months of the year. Three potentially vulnerable freshmen — Reps. John Barrow (D-Ga.), Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) and John Salazar (D-Colo.), also did well, collecting $226,000, $221,000 and $196,000 respectively.

Barrow, whose political future is uncertain due to a re-redistricting pushed through by Republicans in the Georgia Legislature, could be vulnerable in a primary or the general election. Carnahan, whose victory margin in his St. Louis-area district was smaller than anticipated, is favored but could face a tough primary challenge.

Salazar is sure to be targeted in his sprawling, conservative Western Slope district. Businessman Scott Tipton (R) has already signaled his interest, and other Republicans could run.

On the other side of the spectrum, some potentially vulnerable incumbents barely took in any money at all.

And Rep. Charles Taylor (R-N.C.), a frequent Democratic target, did not raise a single dime. But Taylor is personally wealthy, and this time, he may need it: former Washington Redskins quarterback Heath Shuler — who was once recruited as a Republican but is now being talked about as a Democrat — is reportedly considering a run.

Due to an apparent glitch on the Federal Election Commission Web site, the April 19 article “Shaky House Members Are In the Money” incorrectly reported the amount of money that Rep. Charles Taylor (R-N.C.) raised in the first three months of the year. It was $104,000.

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