Six Top Races: Show Me the Money

Posted October 21, 2011 at 5:45pm

There are some races in which candidates are forced to scrape the bottom of their call lists — cajoling, begging, pleading for the money to keep their campaigns limping along.

And then there are these six Senate and House races in which money is unlikely to ever be an issue for the top candidates — unless the issue becomes how to spend all of it.

Because of the unique contours of each of these elections, many of which will draw a national audience, there is unlikely to be a shortage of resources for the campaigns. To be sure, these aren’t necessarily going to be the most expensive races of 2012, but they are contests where the quarterly reports will routinely be at the top of the heap.

2012 Senate Races


The race between Sen. Scott Brown (R) and Harvard University professor Elizabeth Warren (D) will be one of the most competitive in 2012.  That alone would be enough to make it a big-money race, but the candidates, and the national fundraising bases that they can tap, put this Bay State race on course to be among the most expensive.

This is Brown’s first re-election, and he is trying to retain the seat formerly held by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). Brown, an expert campaigner, still has a national profile from his come-from-behind special election victory two years ago.

Brown pulled in $1.6 million in the third quarter and had a whopping $10.5 million in the bank at the end of September.

Warren, a longtime favorite of the progressive community for her advocacy on behalf of the middle class, raised more than $3 million in the first weeks of her campaign. With substantial support from the Democratic establishment in Boston and Washington, D.C., she is likely to be the winner of the Democratic primary and see the money keep flowing in.

A late September YouTube video of her cogently explaining her belief in a robust government and a progressive tax code went viral, adding to her cachet among liberal-leaning voters in Massachusetts and around the country.

“She really articulates well some of the frustration that a lot of [progressives] have been feeling … about income inequality,” said Joyce Linehan, an arts and culture publicist from Boston who gave Warren’s campaign $2,500.

Boston is an expensive media market, and outside groups are also expected to play heavily in this race, even though the candidates likely won’t need the extra financial help.


Money won’t be a problem for either former Virginia governor running for the state’s open Senate seat, a smashmouth battle among the most competitive in the country.

Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen have turned in strong quarterly reports, with Kaine taking the edge in cash on hand despite entering the race three months later than Allen. But these two political heavyweights have national clout as well, with Kaine as the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and Allen as the former chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Their national fundraising experience, coupled with the fact that the race is seen as a pure tossup in a battleground state at the presidential level, ensures it will be among the highest-spending races in the country.

In the most recent quarter, Kaine raised $1.3 million and had stockpiled a $2.5 million war chest by the end of September. Allen raised $900,000 and had $1.8 million in the bank.

There will be plenty of ads running in the pricey Washington, D.C., media market at this time next year, as moderate voters in the suburbs and exurbs are up for grabs and have a track record of swinging elections. Kaine and Allen, with help from allied outside groups, are expected to spend whatever it takes to win them over.

Texas GOP Primary

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) had a blowout third quarter, raising $4.7 million, which included a $2 million personal contribution. Despite that figure, the $2.6 million that he took in from individual donors raised eyebrows as well.

Dewhurst demonstrated in his first quarter as an official candidate that he is willing to put his personal fortune, estimated  by the Associated Press to be worth $200 million, behind his campaign. It has also been noted that many state lobbyists are eager to contribute to his Senate campaign, aware that even if Dewhurst loses, they will still have interests before him if he returns to Austin.  

Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and former Solicitor General Ted Cruz both raised around a million dollars last quarter, impressive figures at first glance. However, an entire quarter’s fundraising could be eaten up after running a single ad statewide for a week.

The fact that Texas is such an expensive state to run in — given the multitude of diverse media markets — gives Dewhurst a big advantage.

Another factor is that Texas’ early March primary is the earliest in the country for Congressional races. Candidates will need to start spending their money on TV ads soon.

2012 House Races

California’s 30th District Democratic Primary

One of the most high-profile Member-vs.-Member races in the country will unfold in California’s San Fernando Valley, where Democratic Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman are squaring off. The Los Angeles-area contest is expected to be one of the costliest House races.

Both were sitting on expansive war chests at the end of the third quarter.

Berman’s latest report was laced with Hollywood bigwigs, and the Los Angeles Times reported that Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen (who all donated to his campaign last quarter) have scheduled a $5,000-a-plate dinner for Berman in November.

Democrats would love to avoid this intraparty battle, but so far both Members have dug in their heels and are preparing for a top-dollar duel. Sherman is a member of the Financial Services Committee, while Berman is ranking member on the Foreign Affairs panel.

This will be their first real race in well over a decade, as neither has had much competition since coming to Congress, Sherman in 1996 and Berman in 1982. And with the state’s new top-two primary system, the race will likely last through the June primary and into November.

Florida’s 22nd District

GOP Rep. Allen West brings in the cash, whether it’s for his campaign or for his opponents’. The straight-talking freshman rode a wave of national support to victory last cycle, when he raised more than $6.5 million for his campaign. He’s on track to raise a lot more in his first re-election bid. In the third quarter, he raised around $2 million. Democrats are keen to note that he spent $1.4 million in a quarter, a pretty high burn rate. Still, West had an enviable $1.8 million in the bank at the end of last month.

Part of West’s support comes from his strong base of tea-party-affiliated voters. Jason Hoyt, a key Florida tea party activist based in Orlando, said it’s West’s “boldness” that makes him a refreshing political figure.

“It’s his ability to cut through the talking points, leave political correctness on the side and just say it like it is,” Hoyt said.

West’s vote for the debt-ceiling-raising Budget Control Act in August may make him slightly less palatable to the conservative grass roots. Even so, he’s expected to keep fundraising at a impressive pace.

West’s opponents have also benefited from the frankness of his views. former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel and businessman Patrick Murphy, the two Democrats battling to take on West next November, have raised lots of money vowing to fight him and his agenda.

Although Florida does not yet have new district lines, Frankel is the frontrunner to win the nod. This should be one of the top-grossing House races in the country next year.

Illinois’ 8th District Democratic Primary

Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth became a national political star during her failed run for Congress in 2006, when her race was a top priority for then-Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.). Emanuel has moved on to become Chicago mayor,  but the money is still flowing in Duckworth’s run for the redrawn 8th district. 

However, her opponent for the Democratic nomination, former state Deputy Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi, is not far behind with strong fundraising of his own.

Duckworth’s third-quarter haul was boosted by an
EMILY’s List endorsement and fundraisers and email solicitations from Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and David Axelrod, a top political adviser to President Barack Obama.

And even though Krishnamoorthi was behind her in third-quarter fundraising, he still tops her with $636,000 in cash on hand.

This will be an expensive primary — one that national Democrats would increasingly like to avoid.