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Paltry Fundraising Stirs Retirement Talk

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett raised only $1,000 from July to September, prompting questions about whether he really intends to run for re-election next year.

Weak third-quarter fundraising is triggering increased speculation about potential House retirements, which are expected to begin trickling out soon.

At the outset of retirement announcement season, the most recent reports filed with the Federal Election Commission signal the lack of intent to run or, in at least one case, the severe inability of some Members to raise money.

Rep. David Rivera (Fla.), a freshman Republican under state investigation and believed to be under federal scrutiny as well, raised just $27,000 last quarter. He's one of a dozen or so Members from both parties atop retirement watch lists, populated mostly by the oldest Members and those with political and future career considerations.

Also submitting lackluster reports were Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), who raised $23,000, and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), who raised just $1,000 from July to September. They were already seen as possible retirements, and the paltry fundraising will only invite further speculation.

Jon Vogel, managing partner at MVAR media firm and a former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said it's a bit early to expect retirement announcements, but "This is around the time when you're going to start to see them, historically."

Redistricting is the decennial wrinkle likely to delay decisions even further, Vogel said. About half of states have approved final maps, meaning many Members have yet to even know who their constituents will be with one year to go until the elections.

But retirements this year are already ahead of the pace of the 2010 cycle. Five incumbents not counting those running for another office have already announced their retirements this year. No Members of Congress not running for higher office last cycle had announced their retirements by this time in 2009.

So far, those retirements have all been Democrats: Reps. Dan Boren (Okla.), Jerry Costello (Ill.), Dale Kildee (Mich.), Mike Ross (Ark.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.).

The National Republican Congressional Committee is watching several more, including a handful at the top of their target list: Reps. Jim Matheson (Utah), Brad Miller (N.C.), Heath Shuler (N.C.) and Cardoza.

While the shape of Matheson's district hasn't been finalized, he's expected to join Miller and Shuler as Democrats severely hampered by redistricting. Matheson has openly contemplated running for governor or against Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) should his district be redrawn unfavorably. Utah state legislators reconvened Monday and hope to have a final map this week.

Among the four, Cardoza, who reported $62,000 in cash on hand, is the most likely to retire. His good friend and fellow Blue Dog Rep. Jim Costa is running in his district rather than a neighboring open district.

Shuler, another Blue Dog, was drawn into a more challenging district. He raised $87,000, including just $10,000 from individuals, and had $233,000 on hand.

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