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For the first time since his initial election to Congress in 1984, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) is facing a challenge from a well-funded opponent, raising new doubts about whether the controversial lawmaker can win re-election in November.
In their latest filings with the Federal Election Commission, DeLay and former Rep. Nick Lampson (D), who is trying to knock off the 11-term Republican, both reported having slightly more than $1 million in cash on hand at the end of December. DeLay reported $1.44 million in cash available, while Lampson had $1.29 million. The FEC reports cover the period from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.
DeLay raised far more than Lampson did throughout 2005, although he also spent far more. DeLay’s campaign took in $3.06 million for the year, while spending more than $1.7 million. Of that total, $894,246 came during the last three months of the year. Vice President Cheney appeared at a DeLay fundraiser in Houston on Dec. 5 that took in more than $500,000, an amount that accounts for well over half of what DeLay raised for the entire fourth quarter.
DeLay’s camp said that the heavy campaign expenditures last quarter went into building a voter-identification and grass-roots ground program that Lampson will be hard pressed to match. “It’s a complete different ball game when you look at the money we spent,” said Shannon Flaherty, DeLay’s spokeswoman. “We’re in an entire different class.”
Flaherty would not say what DeLay’s fundraising goal for the whole cycle was. “This is a national race. It’s going to be very expensive,” Flaherty said. “We’ll raise whatever we need to raise.”
Flaherty also pointed to the involvement of liberal groups such as Campaign for America’s Future and MoveOn.org, which have already run TV and print ads against DeLay over his legal and ethical problems, as another costly factor in the race. “You just can’t write off the outside groups,” Flaherty added.
DeLay faces a Republican primary challenge from Sugar Land, Texas, attorney Thomas Campbell in March as well. Campbell reported raising just over $58,000 in 2005. Campbell could spend $400,000 or more leading up to the March 7 primary, with a lot of that coming from his own pocket, and DeLay will be forced to counter that with his own campaign funds.
Two other GOP candidates, attorney Michael Fjetland and Pat Baig, a teacher, are also challenging DeLay for the Republican nomination. Neither is considered a serious threat to DeLay.
Lampson raised $1.6 million for all of 2005, with $759,563 flowing into his campaign coffers between October and December.
A total of $218,000 was funneled to the Lampson campaign through two joint fundraising committees. A total of $190,000 came from Lampson Victory 2006, a joint committee between the Lampson campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Another $28,000 was raised by Good Government Without DeLay, a joint fundraising committee controlled by the Lampson campaign, the Oregon Democratic Party, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).
Lampson spent slightly more than $355,000 for the year.
Mike Malaise, Lampson’s spokesman, said the campaign’s goal is to raise $5 million for the cycle. That amount would allow Lampson, who served in the House for eight years before being losing his seat in November 2004 thanks to a DeLay-backed redistricting plan in Texas, to be competitive in the expensive Houston TV market.