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If the Democrats suffer significant losses in House elections this fall, it wont be because their incumbents werent ready for the fight.
In this era of big-money campaigns, there really is no such thing as an off election year, and House Democrats in politically competitive districts built well-stocked campaign treasuries in 2009 to brace for vigorous Republican opposition in what should be a far more challenging election year for their party than the past two election cycles.
The 42 Members to whom House Democratic leaders have provided added logistical and financial aid had an average of $800,000 in their campaign accounts as the election year began, according to a Roll Call analysis of updated reports filed with the Federal Election Commission by a Jan. 31 deadline.
Topping the list of these Frontline Democrats is Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.), who had $1.6 million in cash on hand as she prepares to seek a third term. Eight other Frontline Democrats had at least $1 million: Rep. John Adler (N.J.), who had more than $1.4 million in the bank; Rep. Gary Peters (Mich.), $1.4 million; Rep. Jim Himes (Conn.), $1.3 million; Rep. Zack Space (Ohio), $1.2 million; Rep. Mark Schauer (Mich.), $1.2 million; Rep. Bill Foster (Ill.), $1 million; Rep. Michael McMahon (N.Y.), $1 million; and Rep. Dan Maffei (N.Y.), $1 million.
All but six Frontline Democrats had more than $500,000 in cash on hand as January began. The lowest total was reported by Rep. Bill Owens (N.Y.), who began the year with $241,000 just eight weeks after he won an upset victory in a special election in a district long dominated by the Republicans.
Frontline Democrats on average raised about a quarter of a million dollars in the final three months of 2009, with all of them topping six figures. The largest fourth-quarter haul for a Frontline Democrat was reported by Rep. Alan Grayson (Fla.), who took in $861,000; his fundraising has thrived because liberal activists love his frequent and cutting criticisms of Republicans.
Challengers Raise Fast Cash
Republican strategists know that challengers rarely outspend incumbents. But they are confident that dozens of their candidates will raise enough to unseat Democratic incumbents in a year when the GOP expects to be aided by a political tailwind at the midpoint of President Barack Obamas term.
Some of the Republicans best-funded challengers include former House Members who have established fundraising networks and ties to political action committee money that less experienced candidates lack. They include Steve Chabot, who had $613,000 on hand for a rematch campaign against freshman Rep. Steve Driehaus (Ohio), who had $762,000 on hand, and Steve Pearce, who had $570,000 on hand for a campaign to unseat his successor, Rep. Harry Teague (N.M.), who had $886,000.
Some Republican challengers who narrowly lost open-seat races in 2008 are waging well-financed rematch bids this year. Steve Stivers, a former Ohio state Senator, had $514,000 on hand for his campaign against Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy ($695,000). Maryland state Sen. Andy Harris had $497,000 in the bank for his bid to unseat Rep. Frank Kratovil ($855,000).
Needing a net gain of 40 seats to win a majority, GOP strategists are trying to expand the playing field of competitive districts by fielding candidates in as many Democratic-held districts as possible, regardless of past political performance. Some of the GOPs best-financed candidates are running in districts that the party didnt seriously contest in 2008.