House Democratic Frosh Show Fundraising Skill

Posted April 18, 2005 at 6:38pm

Half of the 16 freshman House Democrats took in more than $100,000 during the first quarter of 2005, but a handful of them are showing significant fundraising prowess needed to ensure their re-election bids in 2006, according to the latest Federal Election Commission reports.

Reps. Melissa Bean (Ill.) and Allyson Schwartz (Pa.) lead the minority’s freshman class with overall fundraising for the first three months of the year, each pulling in more than $400,000. Bean, who is one of the most vulnerable freshmen and House Democrats, had $359,000 in the bank as of March 31, while Schwartz, who is unlikely to face a serious challenge, had $298,000 on hand.

Several other freshmen also made a strong showing early this cycle. Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Russ Carnahan (Mo.), Dan Boren (Okla.), Brian Higgins (N.Y.), Charlie Melancon (La.) and John Salazar (Colo.) all surpassed the $100,000 fundraising mark as of March 31. Barrow, Higgins, Melancon and Salazar are all part of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Frontline program and are considered among the most vulnerable Democratic House incumbents this cycle.

Leadership sources said freshman Democrats — particularly threatened Members — are exactly where they should be at this stage.

“The expectation was to raise $100,000 in the first quarter,” said a senior Democratic aide. “From our perspective, all the marginals essentially did exactly what we asked them to.”

Sarah Feinberg, spokeswoman for the DCCC, said House leaders are pleased with the freshman fundraising so far, adding that Members are exceeding expectations.

“It’s important for them to start off their campaigns — even in the first quarter — with strong showings,” Feinberg said. “These freshmen have done that. It shows they will clearly be able to have all the resources they’ll need for their re-elects.”

Bean surpassed all other threatened freshmen this quarter, but several House Democratic sources said that is not a surprise. Bean is expected to face one of the toughest re-elections of any first-term Democratic incumbent.

“As far as the freshmen go, there’s Bean and then everyone else is in another category,” said the Democratic aide.

As for Schwartz’s money-raising ability, sources said her early showing is no surprise given that she pulled in more than $4 million in 2004 and is likely to show similar strength as a fundraiser this cycle.

Schwartz is also an ambitious Member of the rookie squad, and like several other freshmen may also have designs on a key committee spot or a future leadership post in the Democratic Caucus. Boren, Salazar and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) are also viewed within the Democratic Caucus as freshmen with potential, although Salazar is the only truly vulnerable Member in that group.

Salazar, who succeeded retired GOP Rep. Scott McInnis, brought in $196,000 this quarter, spent $66,000 and had $167,000 in the bank.

Beyond Bean and Salazar, Barrow, Melancon and Higgins could face a serious challenge. Barrow, who knocked off GOP Rep. Max Burns last cycle, raised $226,000 this quarter, spent $17,716 and has $228,000 on hand. Melancon, who was elected to succeed longtime Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), raised $127,000, spent $30,000 and had $139,000 in his coffers.

Higgins, who replaced Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.), raised $142,000, spent $36,000 and had $131,000 remaining.

While unlikely to face a serious race in 2006, Carnahan isn’t taking any chances, having raised $221,000, spent $84,000 and holding onto $139,000. Boren is also viewed as relatively safe, but raised $118,000, spent $44,000 and had $93,000 on hand.

First-term Members are often the most vulnerable incumbents, having not established a solid tenure of service to help secure re-election. Freshman Democrats face an even greater burden given the fact that the minority party needs to pick up 15 seats this cycle to retake the House.

While a share of the Democratic freshmen aren’t wasting time raising money, others have been slower to get started. But with a few exceptions, many of these freshmen are not in danger heading into 2006.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.) raised just $69,000 this quarter, spent $29,000 and had $98,000 in the bank, while Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas), who already faces a primary challenge, raised $71,000 this quarter, spent just $528 and had $107,000 on hand.

Schultz is also considered to be in a safe seat. She pulled in $56,000 this quarter, spent $93,000 and had $18,000 in the bank.

Rep. Cynthia McKinney (Ga.), who is widely expected to win another term, collected $38,000 so far this year, spent $11,000 and had $38,000 in her coffer. Rep. Dan Lipinski (Ill.) raised no money in the first quarter, but spent $29,000 and had $117,000 on hand. Rep. Gwen Moore (Wis.) brought in $19,000, spent $33,000 and had $139,000 on hand. Finally, Rep. Al Green (Texas) raised just $14,000 this quarter, spent $15,000 and has $80,000 in the bank.

“A lot of safe Members know they have to raise some money and they will raise some money,” explained one well-placed Democratic aide. “But after the heat of raising all that money to get here they may take a quarter off — and they can.”

Meanwhile, fitting into a category of her own is Rep. Doris Matsui (Calif.), who succeeded her late husband Robert Matsui in a March 8 special election. Doris Matsui raised $1.1 million in the quarter, spending $941,000 as of March 31, the bulk of it on the special election. She had $173,000 in the bank and isn’t expected to face a serious challenge in 2006.