Longtime Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., reported raising just $10 in the third quarter — the smallest haul of any incumbent in recent memory.
In an interview with CQ Roll Call, Watt chalked up his low total to the fact that he halted his fundraising operation during a prolonged Senate confirmation process for a role at the Federal Housing Finance Agency. President Barack Obama nominated the 11-term Democrat to head the agency in May.
"Actually once I found out I was going to be nominated for this position from the president, and once I was nominated, I thought I had shut down my entire operation," Watt said in a phone interview with CQ Roll Call. "So I'm surprised I have $10 in this quarter. Somebody didn’t get the message I guess."
Watt's nomination to be the chief regulator of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has stalled in the Senate. Although Watt said he is confident the Senate will confirm him to the post, he said he still hasn't made a decision on whether he will run for re-election if his nomination falls through.
"Usually I make that decision over the Christmas break before the year in which I file," Watt said. "And I would do that again this year. I really haven’t addressed that. I'm anticipating a favorable decision by the Senate — or at least hopeful for a favorable decision by the Senate. And if I don’t get a favorable decision, then I will address that in the usual time frame that I do."
Watt has consistently raised paltry sums this cycle, including just $2,300 during the second quarter and $1,000 during the first three months of the year. The low sums have sparked retirement rumors for the entrenched member from North Carolina's 12th District.
Watt said he made a conscious decision to slow or shut down his fundraising operation entirely when he heard the FHFA nomination was in the works.
"It just seemed like the fair and decent thing for me to do – not to be out there soliciting funds for a campaign I didn’t anticipate was going to happen," Watt said.
A number of Democrats are already running in this deep blue district, located in and around Charlotte, N.C. They announced their bids after Obama nominated Watt, and many of them assumed it would be an open-seat contest.
One of those Democrats, state Sen. Malcolm Graham, reported raising $57,000 and has roughly $33,000 in cash on hand in the third quarter. The other six Democrats running in the contest have yet to file third-quarter fundraising reports.
Watt said that should his nomination fall through in the Senate, and if he decides to run for re-election, the Democrats currently running have told him they would suspend their bids.
"Every single one of them has told me that if I decide to run again that they don’t plan to be in the race," Watt said. "They are basically doing the reverse calculation of the calculation that I have made."
Watt said that if he decides to run for re-election, he will have ample time to fundraise for a November 2014 contest.
"If things change ... then I could gear up a fundraising operation; that has not been a big challenge for me in the past," Watt said.
North Carolina's 12th District is rated a Safe Democratic contest by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.