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Drive for Cash Accelerates

Vulnerable House Members Show Solid Fundraising

Political strategists within both parties didn’t need the most current fundraising reports to know that freshman Rep. Melissa Bean’s (D-Ill.) re-election race stands to be one of the most, if not the most, expensive races in the country next year. But there it was, in black and white.

According to third-quarter fundraising reports filed this week, Bean had $1.1 million in her campaign coffers as of Sept. 30 — the only vulnerable Democrat to surpass the $1 million cash-on-hand mark at this point in the election cycle.

Meanwhile, there is no shortage of funds in the crowded field of Republicans vying to take on Bean, with the top three contenders — all of them millionaire self-funders — showing a combined total of $780,000 in the bank at the end of last month.

The filing of third-quarter Federal Election Commission reports Monday gave both parties’ campaign committees an opportunity to crow about the financial standing of their incumbents and challengers with just a little more than one year to go before the 2006 midterm elections.

Bean is part of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Frontline program, which helps steer money to the most vulnerable incumbents. Party strategists are boasting that the 10 incumbents in the program now have an average cash-on-hand figure of $615,000. At this same point in the previous cycle, the average was just $342,000.

There is other evidence that Democratic fundraising is off to a stronger start than in recent cycles.

While Bean is the only Frontline Democrat who has banked more than $1 million, five other vulnerable Democrats showed more than $500,000 in their campaign accounts.

Meanwhile, National Republican Congressional Committee officials note that eight out of their nine Retain Our Majority Program recipients were above the half-million-dollar mark.

The latest filings also reveal that four of the most competitive House races of the cycle could well be among the costliest, and will be fought in four expensive media markets: Illinois 8th in suburban Chicago, Pennsylvania 6th in the Philadelphia suburbs, Florida 22nd in the Palm Beach area, and Texas 22nd, outside Houston [for more on the Texas race involving Rep. Tom DeLay (R), see story on page 21].

In the 8th district race in Illinois, Bean raised just more than $500,000 in the three-month period — far outpacing her fellow at-risk brethren.

All three of the top Republicans in the contest made personal loans to their campaign treasuries this quarter. Investment banker David McSweeney (R) contributed $250,000 of the $309,000 total he raised in the period. McSweeney suspended fundraising activities for a month after Hurricane Katrina, and ended September with $239,000 on hand.

Attorney Kathy Salvi (R) raised $314,000, $185,000 of which she loaned to herself, and closed out the period with $291,000 in the bank. Both McSweeney and Salvi have said that they are willing to spend upwards of $1 million on the primary.

Businesswoman Teresa Bartels (R) is also competing to take on Bean. She raised $166,000, including an $80,000 personal loan, and had $250,000 in the bank.

A fourth Republican, state Rep. Bob Churchill, just entered the race and did not file a campaign finance statement.

Money also is flowing to two races in Georgia, where a GOP-led redistricting effort looks likely to complicate the re-election efforts of Democratic Reps. Jim Marshall and John Barrow.

Marshall, who is not currently part of the Frontline program, was outraised during the period by his likely opponent, former Rep. Mac Collins (R-Ga.), although the Democrat held a 2-1 cash-on-hand advantage at the end of September.

Collins raised $217,000 in the three-month period, compared with the $138,000 raised by Marshall. However, Marshall showed $626,000 in reserve on Sept. 30, while Collins had $303,000.

In the 12th district rematch race between Barrow and former Rep. Max Burns (R), Barrow posted a strong financial quarter, raising $233,000 and showing $700,000 in reserve. Burns raised $149,000 and had $306,000 in his campaign account at the end of last month.

In Texas, Rep. Chet Edwards was the only other vulnerable Democrat besides Marshall to be outraised by a challenger in the quarter. Edwards raised $269,000, the second-highest total for a Frontline Democrat for the quarter.

Meanwhile, businessman Van Taylor (R), a Marine reservist and Iraq war veteran, raised $643,000 in the period, which included $325,000 he gave to the campaign. He had $640,000 left in reserve as of Sept. 30, but he must win a GOP primary before facing Edwards next November.

Democrats also were touting the fact that three more of their potentially vulnerable incumbents — Reps. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), Charlie Melancon (D-La.) and John Salazar (D-Colo.) — had significantly more money than their highly touted challengers at the end of the reporting period. After a strong second quarter, the intake for Salazar’s likely opponent, businessman Scott Tipton (R), was surprisingly small: just $10,000 since July 1.

Among targeted Republican incumbents, Reps. Clay Shaw (Fla.) and Michael Fitzpatrick (Pa.) ended September with more than $1 million in cash on hand.

Like the Bean race in Illinois, Shaw’s Palm Beach area re-election contest also is expected to rank among the most costly in the nation.

Shaw ended the quarter with $1.2 million in the bank, although he was one of two vulnerable GOP incumbents to be outraised by a challenger during the period. State Sen. Ron Klein (D), who stands to give Shaw the toughest re-election fight he’s seen in three cycles, raised $350,000 in three months and showed $840,000 in his campaign war chest. Shaw raised $285,000 from July to September.

Two other vulnerable Republicans appear to have been outraised by challengers. One was Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.), a notoriously poor fundraiser cycle after cycle. Hostettler took in $38,000 in the third quarter and ended September with $28,000 in the bank. Next year he will face Vandenburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth (D), who raised $144,000 in the period and showed $258,000 in his campaign war chest. Despite his sluggish fundraising, Hostettler has continued to win re-election by slim margins since 1994.

The other, apparently, was Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), who is facing a rematch with Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell (D), whom he beat 52 percent to 48 percent last year. Shays reported raising $208,000 in the three-month period and banking $469,000. While her finance report was not posted on the FEC Web site Monday, Farrell told The Associated Press that she has raised $303,000 since entering the race in August.

Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick, a freshman, also is girding for a tough re-election fight. He showed $1 million in reserve on Sept. 30, after raising $206,000 in the third quarter. Fitzpatrick is likely to face either former Bucks County Commissioner Andy Warren (D) or Iraq war veteran Patrick Murphy (D) next November. Warren, who entered the race in late summer, raised $39,000 and had $36,000 left in reserve. Murphy, who has a strong following among Internet party activists, raised $67,000 and showed $107,000 in the bank.

While it remains to be seen whether Fitzpatrick’s race will eventually develop into a top-tier challenger contest, in the nearby 6th district Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) is in the political fight of his life in a rematch with attorney and 2004 Democratic nominee Lois Murphy.

Both Murphy and Gerlach raised around $330,000 in the third quarter, and Gerlach posted more than $900,000 in the bank on Sept. 30. Murphy had $350,000 in her campaign account.

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