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From highs to lows, FEC reports offer an early 2024 temperature

Eight-figure totals in California, and a $5,333 haul for Santos

New York Republican Rep. George Santos, whose race next year is rated a Toss-up, raised just over $5,000 from January through March.
New York Republican Rep. George Santos, whose race next year is rated a Toss-up, raised just over $5,000 from January through March. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The first three months of this year saw a new Republican majority take control of the House and, after a bumpy start marked by a prolonged speaker election, try to exert its influence on Democrats who control the Senate and White House.

But while the start of a new Congress in 2023 may have seemed like a time to put campaigns in the rear-view mirror, the reality is the first primaries of 2024 are less than 11 months away, and many lawmakers used the first quarter to replenish depleted accounts or build bankrolls for fights ahead.

Filings to the Federal Election Commission over the weekend show that during the three months ending March 31, House Republicans got off to a fast start and some candidates seeking open Senate seats posted eight-figure totals. At the same time, some incumbents’ skimpy hauls could be a sign of retirement announcements ahead.

Here’s five takeaways from the latest disclosures. 

Fast start for House GOP

Republican incumbents in battleground House seats, on average, raised more and had more cash on hand at the end of the quarter than similarly situated Democrats, a CQ Roll Call analysis found. 

Of the 31 Democrats in seats that will be in play next year according to Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, the average incumbent raised $420,000 during the quarter and had $400,000 on hand on March 31. The 33 battleground House Republicans, meanwhile, raised an average $639,000 during the quarter and had nearly $700,000 on hand. 

While opposing parties are targeting their seats, many of these incumbents do not have challengers yet, so the early fundraising means future opponents have that much more ground to make up.

New York Democratic Rep. Pat Ryan took in the most of any battleground incumbent, with receipts of nearly $1.2 million, including $50,000 the congressman loaned to his campaign on Jan. 6. California Rep. Michelle Steel led the Republicans, with nearly $1.1 million, including a $150,000 personal loan on March 31. Two other Republicans, California’s Ken Calvert and Arizona freshman Juan Ciscomani, also raised more than $1 million during the quarter, with no loans.

At the other end of the spectrum, embattled New York Republican Rep. George Santos reported raising just $5,333, and had $25,000 on hand on March 31 for a race that’s rated a Toss-up by Inside Elections. Democratic candidate Josh Lafazan, a Nassau County legislator, reported raising more than $345,000.

Republican leaders in his district have called on Santos to resign after repeated revelations that he falsified his employment and personal background. Santos announced Monday he is seeking reelection, however, and The New York Post reported on an anonymous source saying Santos was telling supporters and potential contributors he expects to raise between $500,000 and $750,000 during the second quarter.

Nevada Rep. Dina Titus raised the least of the battleground Democrats, taking in $98,000 and finishing the quarter with $241,000.  Potential GOP opponent and restaurateur Flemming Larsen reported $585,000 in receipts, including a $500,000 personal loan on March 17. The race next year is rated Lean Democratic.

Is Cardin done?

Maryland Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, who has said he is deciding whether to seek a fourth term next year, raised $15,000 from January through March, with $11,500 of it coming from just four donations from PACs. That’s by far the least of any senator up in this cycle, with the next smallest totals being the $112,000 by Utah Republican Mitt Romney and the $195,000 by Delaware Democrat Thomas R. Carper

Cardin, a 79-year-old Democrat, reported $38,000 in campaign spending during the quarter, or more than double what he raised. Cardin finished the period with $995,000 and no one reported any fundraising to run against him in a state that President Joe Biden won by 33 points in 2020, and Cardin won by 35 points in 2018.

Cash flows to Boebert foe

Colorado Democrat Adam Frisch appears to have raised the most of any House challenger facing an incumbent during the quarter, taking in $1.7 million for his repeat bid to unseat firebrand Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert

Frisch is an aggressive email fundraiser, often sending out several messages in a day, and his report shows nearly $1.1 million came from so-called small donors – those giving less than $200 – often targeted by direct messaging appeals. 

Boebert’s 3rd District backed President Donald Trump over Democrat Joe Biden in 2020 by more than 8 percentage points, but Frisch came within 546 votes of winning in November. 

Boebert raised $764,000 during the quarter and had $1 million on hand. Frisch ended the quarter with nearly $1.3 million on hand.

Senate battles heat up

The three House Democrats vying for California’s open Senate seat were hard at work raising money during the quarter. Rep. Barbara Lee raised $1.2 million, but that put her far behind her rivals, with Rep. Adam Schiff reporting $6.7 million in receipts and Rep. Katie Porter reporting $15.5 million. That figure that includes $11 million transferred from Porter’s House campaign fund. At the end of the quarter, Lee had less than $1.2 million in cash on hand, Porter had $9.5 million and Schiff had $24.7 million. 

In Arizona, Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego reported raising $3.8 million for his battle to unseat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who won her seat as a Democrat but said last year she was switching her party affiliation to independent. Sinema raised $2.1 million during the quarter, and had $9.9 million cash on hand, compared with $2.7 million on hand for Gallego.

In West Virginia, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III also has not said if he’ll run for reelection. He raised $371,000 for the quarter, which was less than Rep. Alex X. Mooney, who is seeking the Republican nomination for Senate. Manchin finished the quarter with $9.7 million in his campaign fund, to Mooney’s $1.4 million.

Of the incumbents gearing up for tough reelection fights, Montana Democrat Jon Tester was the top fundraiser, taking in more than $5 million, followed by $3.6 million for Ohio’s Sherrod Brown and $2.4 million for Nevada’s Jacky Rosen.

Michigan Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who is seeking the open Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s retirement, raised $3 million and had $2.3 million at the end of the quarter. Indiana Republican Rep. Jim Banks, who is seeking the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Mike Braun’s run for governor, raised $1.2 million and had $2.3 million on hand.

Crowd seeks open California seats

Democrats vying to fill Schiff’s seat in California’s 30th District have already raised nearly $2.4 million combined, including $657,000 by former city attorney Mike Feuer, $610,000 by state Sen. Anthony Portantino, $560,000 by Los Angeles school board member Nick Melvoin and $337,000 by state Rep. Laura Friedman. Inside Elections rates the race Solid Democratic.

Actor Ben Savage, who is also running in the 30th, took in $102,000, including $77,000 in personal loans.

The open district with the highest combined total raised during the quarter was the 47th, which Porter currently represents. That $2.7 million total, however, included a $1 million loan made by former Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda, who ended his campaign for a comeback last week after suffering a traumatic brain injury in a fall. Of the remaining candidates, Republican Scott Baugh, who came within 3 points of beating Porter in November, was the top fundraiser. Baugh took in $531,000 and had $513,000 in his account on March 31. Democratic state Sen. David Min raised $521,000 and finished with $382,000. Inside Elections rates the race Tilt Democratic.

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