Mo. Money

Gephardt White House Bid, Primary For Governor Could Hinder Farmer

Posted October 27, 2003 at 6:23pm

As Missouri state Treasurer Nancy Farmer (D) seeks to make financial inroads in her challenge to Sen. Kit Bond (R), she faces a donor base already occupied with the presidential campaign of Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and a Democratic gubernatorial primary between the sitting governor and the current state auditor.

Gephardt has already raised roughly $2 million from the Show Me State, his biggest take out of any state. Gov. Bob Holden raised $470,000 in the third quarter, while his primary opponent, state Auditor Claire McCaskill, brought in $415,000.

All three are expected to lean on Democratic givers even harder in the coming months as they attempt to squeeze every dollar out of the state to help their campaigns.

“So far the effect has been on fundraising,” said one Missouri strategist when asked about the busy Democratic slate’s impact on Farmer. “Down the road there may be some difficult situations about who is going to be on stage with her [at events].”

Farmer’s campaign advisers admitted that they were initially concerned about her ability to raise dollars.

“This was going to be a crowded Democratic field with a lot of the Democratic candidates calling a lot of the same Democratic donors,” said Farmer spokesman Safir Ahmed. “She walked in knowing all that.”

But, he argued, Farmer’s October quarterly fundraising report put to rest those concerns.

From July 1 to Sept. 30, Farmer raised $428,000 and ended the period with $348,000 in the bank. Bond, however, raised $1.5 million during that time and had $4 million left to spend on the race.

Ahmed pointed out that roughly $1 million of Bond’s third-quarter take came in one night at an Aug. 26 event with President Bush.

“Our fundraising goals are not in relation to [Bond’s] fundraising goals,” Ahmed said. “The fact that Kit Bond may have $15 million doesn’t bother us one way or another.”

Despite a solid quarter, Farmer must show financial staying power in order to be seen as competitive with Bond.

In her race for state treasurer in 2000, Farmer was outspent by $600,000 but still won by a 6-point margin. She raised roughly $800,000 for that contest.

A look at the past two Senate races in Missouri shows that she will have to drastically increase her past fundraising efforts to have a chance to win.

In 2000, then-Sen. John Ashcroft (R) and then-Gov. Mel Carnahan (D) each doled out roughly $9 million on their efforts.

Carnahan won that race posthumously after he was killed in a plane crash just weeks before the election. His name remained on the ballot, and after he defeated Ashcroft, Carnahan’s wife, Jean, was appointed to fill the vacancy.

In 2002, then-Sen. Jean Carnahan (D) raised and spent better than $12 million in a losing effort against former Rep. Jim Talent (R), who spent roughly $8 million.

Jim Kottmayer, executive director of the Missouri Democratic Party, said the 2000 elections showed that Farmer will be well-funded this time.

That cycle saw Missouri play host to the Carnahan-Ashcroft race as well as a nip-and-tuck gubernatorial election in which Holden defeated Talent by just more than 30,000 votes out of more than 2 million cast. Holden raised $10 million for that run, Talent roughly $9 million.

And, according to Kottmayer, then-Vice President Al Gore (D) “had a significant fundraising base in the state as well.”

“We can support [Farmer] in much the same way we did Mel Carnahan in 2000,” Kottmayer insisted. “As long as this race remains competitive the resources are going to be there for her.”

Farmer is likely to be aided financially from her recent endorsement by EMILY’s List, a powerful interest group that bundles contributions to pro-abortion rights, female Democratic candidates around the country.

EMILY’s List will send mail on Farmer for the first time in November, which should deliver her a solid financial boost in her year-end report.

Farmer must walk a fine line, however, as she seeks to collect money from national interest groups.

When she met with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Jon Corzine (N.J.) at an Association of Trial Lawyers of America convention earlier this year, Republicans attacked her for cozying up to liberal special interests.

John Hancock, former executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, said that “any money Democrats put into the [Senate] race I am glad to see, because I don’t think that it is winnable.”

Fundraising aside, Gephardt’s presidential bid and the Holden-McCaskill intraparty fight are likely to sap much of the media attention from the Senate race, making it more difficult for Farmer to raise her statewide profile.

If Gephardt wins the presidential nomination, however, Farmer is likely to benefit from an increased Democratic turnout in the Show Me State.

And with elected officials already choosing sides in the Holden-McCaskill tussle, Farmer could be put in a tough position as she stumps throughout the state.

Holden recently secured the endorsement of Jean Carnahan, while McCaskill has the backing of former Gov. Roger Wilson (D). Wilson was the lieutenant governor under Mel Carnahan and served as acting governor after his death.

Brad Woodhouse, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, dismissed any concerns of the gubernatorial rift affecting Farmer.

“Nancy Farmer has received the endorsements of Governor Holden and Claire McCaskill and is being strongly supported by Congressman Gephardt,” Woodhouse said.

“[Farmer’s] race against Senator Bond will be seen by Missouri Democrats and Missourians in general as a very important race that people will rally around regardless of what else is happening in the party,” he added.