6 Major Surprises in House Campaign Fundraising

Posted October 16, 2013 at 5:28pm

House campaigns reported their fundraising totals for July through September this week, revealing some surprising hauls from more than a handful of members and candidates.

The results showed some longtime members and formidable challengers beating expectations — while others now find themselves at severe cash disadvantages going into tough election cycles.

In no intentional order, here are the six most surprising third-quarter fundraising tallies:

North Carolina’s 7th District

Republicans are gunning for Rep. Mike McIntyre, a longtime Democratic member from this conservative district, with good reason. McIntyre won by fewer than 700 votes last year, while Mitt Romney carried the district by a 19-point margin.

McIntyre will face his 2012 GOP opponent, former state Sen. David Rouzer, again next year. Such a competitive district usually means donors are eager to open their wallets for candidates — but that wasn’t the case this time.

McIntyre raised $189,000 in the third quarter, while Rouzer only brought in a meager $92,000 during the same period.

Operatives argue this district is not a wealthy one, which often hurts fundraising totals. But it’s nonetheless surprising that neither party’s national donor base brought in big bucks for their candidates — especially for Rouzer.

Tennessee’s 4th District

Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ meager fundraising has caused many operatives to question whether the embattled Republican could raise enough money to run a viable re-election campaign.

But this quarter, DesJarlais rebounded to report raising $113,000 — a much higher number than his naysayers predicted.

Republicans would consider that to be a mediocre haul for most members, but the two-term Republican has been dogged by revelations he encouraged his ex-wife and a former mistress to have abortions.

Most importantly, this doesn’t mean DesJarlais is any less vulnerable than he was three months ago.

He faces a well-funded primary opponent in state Sen. Jim Tracy, who has raised more than DesJarlais in every quarter this year.

Less than a year away from the primary, Tracy boasts a 5-to-1 cash advantage over DesJarlais.

Florida’s 26th District

Talk about a rough three months in the headlines for freshman Rep. Joe Garcia, a Democrat.

There was a criminal investigation into two former staffers accused of submitting fake absentee ballot requests. The congressman denies any wrongdoing on his part — but the local coverage was brutal.

Despite this, Garcia raked in $410,000 during the third quarter. He has more than $1 million in cash on hand — a large haul for any member and especially useful in this competitive district.

The reason? Welcome to Miami.

One Democratic operative noted, “There’s a lot of money here and there’s a lot of Cuban money here. … You’ve got to give credit to Joe for going out and getting it.”

Garcia’s GOP opponent also experienced a boost from the Magic City. Miami-Dade school board official Carlos Curbelo raised about $42,000 more than Garcia.

Michigan’s 11th District

Rep. Kerry Bentivolio had indicated he would step up his fundraising operation this quarter. But the freshman Republican raised less during those months — $59,000 — than he did with his paltry second-quarter haul.

Even more surprising? He had some of the best fundraisers in the GOP help him this quarter. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin all made fundraising stops for Bentivolio in the past few months, according to his campaign.

Also in the third quarter, Bentivolio got a primary challenge from a deep-pocketed attorney. Republican David Trott dwarfed Bentivolio by raising $649,000 — including $208,000 of his own money. And there’s more cash to come.

Massachusetts’ 6th District

Rep. John F. Tierney held the dubious distinction of being one of the most vulnerable House Democrats until recently. That’s thanks in part to an investigation into whether Tierney failed to disclose to the IRS $200,000 his wife received.

Despite this, Tierney raised a respectable $251,000 in the third quarter. More good news for Tierney came last month, when the Ethics Committee formally dropped its investigation of him.

Now the bad news for the nine-term Democrat: His primary challenger, veteran Seth Moulton, raised $100,000 more than the incumbent.

Moulton’s haul solidifies himself as a formidable primary opponent against Tierney.

More bad news for the incumbent: Former state Sen. Richard Tisei, proved himself a strong contender last cycle, and the Republican is primed to run again next year.

Utah’s 4th District

Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love raised $529,000 in the third quarter. It’s an impressive sum that far surpassed what her opponent, Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson, raised.

But Love already spent more than half of what she raised during those three months. It’s highly unusual for a candidate to have a 71 percent burn rate more than one year from Election Day.

Love lost to Matheson by just 768 votes last cycle. Republicans had privately expressed concerns about her team at the time.

When she announced her rematch earlier this year, Love and her campaign claimed to have learned lessons from her 2012 bid. But spending so much of her money so early has Republicans quietly worried again.

To see the full chart, click here.