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At the Races: They showed us the money

Welcome to At the Races! Each week we bring you news and analysis from the CQ Roll Call campaign team. Know someone who’d like to get this newsletter? They can subscribe here.

We now know how campaigns fared in the money race during the final three months of 2023 and what their financial status was at the beginning of the election year. 

On the House side, Republican incumbents in battleground races began 2024 with an average of $1.8 million on hand, while their Democratic counterparts had an average of $1.4 million. In the fourth quarter of 2023 specifically, those Republicans raised $532,000 on average while those Democrats raised an average of $539,000. 

In the March 5 member-on-member race in Alabama’s 1st District, Rep. Jerry Carl outraised fellow GOP Rep. Barry Moore. Carl raised $546,000 in the fourth quarter, while Moore raised $173,000. Carl had $1.1 million on hand and Moore had $694,000 in the bank at the end of last year. 

One eye-popping number came from Eugene Vindman, a retired Army colonel who testified at House hearings ahead of former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment and is now running for an open seat in Virginia’s 7th District. Vindman raised $2 million in the fourth quarter and had $1.1 million on hand. That far outpaces the three other Democrats who reported raising money, as well as the Republicans running in a district that the GOP feels optimistic about, with Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger retiring to run for governor in 2025. Derrick Anderson, a top GOP recruit, raised $301,000 and had $328,000 on hand at the end of the year. 

In competitive Senate races, Democrats have largely outraised their Republican opponents. One exception is in Pennsylvania, where Republican David McCormick is challenging Sen. Bob Casey. McCormick, who gave millions to a Senate race he lost in 2022, has loaned his campaign $1 million and raised $5.5 million total in the fourth quarter. Catch up on the fundraising reports in all this year’s major Senate races courtesy of your At The Races team.

Starting gate

Battle-tested: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named its inaugural list of challengers in competitive House districts that the party hopes to flip in November. Several of the candidates on the committee’s Red to Blue list are making return runs after narrow losses in 2022.

What about Bob? Donors abandoned Sen. Bob Menendez after his indictment in September, with contributions almost equaling refunds in his fourth-quarter report. He still had a significant bankroll that threw off $88,000 interest, but the New Jersey Democrat, who hasn’t said if he’ll run again this year, was burning through it to pay lawyers. Meanwhile, two Democrats vying to succeed him each ended the year with $2.7 million in the bank.

Attendance check: The rate of House members missing votes ticked back up last year after Republicans took charge and ended the option of allowing proxy voting, which Democrats instituted during the COVID-19 pandemic, CQ Roll Call’s Paul V. Fontelo reports in the first installment of our annual Vote Studies analysis. In both chambers, members with the highest absence rates were either sick or running for another office.

Dutch departure: Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger announced Friday that he would be retiring at the end of the Congress, opening up a Baltimore-area seat, Jim Saksa reports. The Democratic primary features several candidates, with the most notable new entry being Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. The Baltimore Banner reports that Olszewski’s current residence is “barely” outside the district lines, but a lot of the district is within the county. State Del. Harry Bhandari is also in the race.


#NY16: New York Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman, whose challenger in the June primary, George Latimer, raised $1.4 million between Dec. 6 and Dec. 31, tells The Daily Beast he “regrets” and does not believe conspiracy theories about the 9/11 terrorist attacks that he posted on a personal blog in 2011, when he was a middle school principal. Bowman said he has “learned how misinformation spreads” since the time of the blog posts, which were deleted in 2016. 

Schiff out front: Democratic Rep. Adam B. Schiff held the lead in the race for California’s open Senate seat but it’s a battle to see who joins him on the November ballot, according to the California Elections and Policy Poll. The survey of 1,416 voters found Schiff capturing 25 percent of the vote, with Democratic Rep. Katie Porter and Republican Steve Garvey essentially deadlocked at 15 percent. Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee is at 7 percent. Early voting begins on Feb. 6 in the all-party primary. 

Fong leads the field: Republican Assemblyman Vince Fong tops the crowded field of candidates vying to replace former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California’s 20th District. Fong captured 27 percent of the vote in a new Emerson College poll, with Republican Mike Boudreaux and Democrat Marisa Wood both at 11 percent.

Endorsement watch: North Carolina Sen. Ted Budd endorsed Addison McDowell, a lobbyist running in the 6th District. The Winning for Women PAC endorsed four new GOP candidates: Nancy Dahlstrom in Alaska’s At-Large District, Laurie Buckhout in North Carolina’s 1st, Alison Esposito in New York’s 18th and Leslie Lewallen in Washington’s 3rd. And in California, Lee is backing Lateefah Simon to replace her in the 12th District. Simon, a onetime recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award, also has the endorsement of Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

What we’re reading

Wither the regionals: Fewer and fewer regional newspapers are covering their hometown congressional delegations on the ground in Washington, which the Columbia Journalism Review notes is leading to less scrutiny for members and less coverage of local issues that become national.

Young women to the left, young men to the right: American women between the ages of 18 and 29 have steadily become more liberal over the past decade, while young men in the U.S. have not, an analysis by the Survey Center on American Life, a project of the American Enterprise Institute, found. Researchers attribute the shift to the #MeToo movement, according to a piece published in Business Insider.

Global trend: The Gen Z political split along gender lines isn’t unique to the United States: An opinion piece in the Financial Times traces similar divides in Germany, Poland, South Korea, Tunisia and a host of other nations.

For the majority: The Washington Post profiles Suzan DelBene, the DCCC chair who Democrats in the House say is taking advice from across the caucus and is working to rebuild trust in the organization.

Straw donors in NY: A team of journalists from THE CITY, The Guardian and Documented interviewed three donors who said they were reimbursed for contributions made to New York Mayor Eric Adams’ campaign, in violation of the law.  

Image vs. reality: Steve Garvey has long cultivated a squeaky clean image, but three of his estranged children paint a different picture. In interviews with the Los Angeles Times, they detailed their complex and troubled relationship with the former major league baseball player turned Senate candidate.

The count: 34

That’s at least how many members of Congress since Christmas have been the target of “swatting” incidents, false reports intended to draw a heavy police response, CQ Roll Call’s Chris Marquette reports, citing Capitol Police statistics. They include Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who said it’s happened to her eight times since 2022 and three times to members of her family.

Nathan’s notes

Nathan, Jacob Rubashkin of Inside Elections and Melanie Mason of Politico take a deep dive into the California congressional primaries on March 5 on this week’s installment of the Inside Elections podcast. From the open U.S. Senate seat to more than a dozen consequential House races, Super Tuesday is about more than the presidential race. Nathan also admits he has his eye on a track suit fashioned after a G.I. Joe character.

Key race: #TX18

Candidates: Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee announced in December that she would seek a 16th term after her loss in the Houston mayoral runoff. Her chief opponent is former Houston City Council member Amanda Edwards in the March 5 Democratic primary. Another Democrat,​​ Isaiah Martin, dropped his bid in December and endorsed Jackson Lee. Two Republicans, Lana Centonze and Aaron Hermes, are running in the GOP primary, also scheduled for March 5.

Why it matters: Jackson Lee has been in the House since 1995, when she unseated a four-term Democratic incumbent, and has rarely faced a primary opponent. At 74, her decision to run for another term after losing the mayor’s race to state Sen. John Whitmire surprised many observers, said Brandon Rottinghaus, professor of political science at the University of Houston. Edwards, a former intern in Jackson Lee’s office, announced her run last summer, when Jackson Lee was focused on her mayoral campaign. Edwards is promising to bring a fresh perspective to Congress.

Cash dash: After spending much of the year running for mayor, Jackson Lee is way behind on fundraising, with just $223,000 in her account on Dec. 31 after she raised $23,000 during the fourth quarter of the year. Edwards started the quarter well ahead of her and reported taking in another $272,000 to close with $856,000 on hand on Dec. 31. Outside groups had not reported any spending through Wednesday.

Backers: Jackson Lee has the support of the Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus. Edwards was endorsed by Brady PAC, the political arm of the gun violence prevention group Brady, as well as the Collective PAC and former Texas Reps. Beto O’Rourke and Chris Bell.

What they’re saying: Both Jackson Lee and Edwards are mainstream Democrats who agree on most issues. “There really aren’t that many policy differences between the two,” Rottinghaus said. Jackson Lee has focused on her ability to deliver federal dollars for the district, while Edwards’ case to voters is “explicitly rooted in the fact that she’s younger and has a better sense of what younger voters want,” Rottinghaus said.

Terrain: The solidly Democratic district includes most of downtown Houston. It was once represented by trailblazing Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, the first Black woman from the South to serve in the House.

Wild card: Voter turnout could be an important factor, said Rottinghaus. “Turnout in the Democratic primary with a noncompetitive statewide election for president is probably going to be pretty low,” he said. Jackson Lee is widely known in the district, and her get-out-the-vote operation could tip the balance in her favor, he said.

Coming up

The South Carolina Democratic presidential primary is Saturday, with the state-run Nevada primary following on Tuesday. That ballot includes Biden in the Democratic contest, as well as a GOP battle featuring former Gov. Nikki Haley, some of her former rivals such as Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and a choice to watch: “none of the above.” Former President Donald Trump, meanwhile, is participating in the Feb. 8 GOP caucus that actually will award delegates to the party’s convention in July. This has caused much confusion, including false reports that Trump was left off the primary ballot, which were debunked by Also next week: House Democrats will be huddling in Leesburg, Va., at the Lansdowne Resort for their annual issues conference Wednesday through Friday.

Photo finish

Maryland Democratic Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger attends a victory party in Bethesda, Md., for then-Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who won Maryland’s Senate Democratic primary on April 26, 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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