Vulnerable Incumbents Well-Funded

Posted July 18, 2005 at 6:46pm

Republican House Members who received 55 percent of the vote or less last year are generally better off financially than their Democratic counterparts, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

Of the 22 GOPers who fit that criteria, 10 closed the three-month period ending June 30 with $500,000 or more in the bank, while only three of the 15 Democrats did.

House Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.), who had a surprisingly close contest with a relatively unknown Democratic challenger in 2004, banked the most money of the potentially vulnerable incumbents. He amassed $2.7 million, inoculating himself in his changing but still Republican district.

He is followed by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), whose public reprimands by the House ethics committee and association with indicted Texas political operatives probably attributed to his receiving only 55 percent of the vote in his suburban Houston district last year.

DeLay ended the second quarter with $726,000 in his war chest.

Former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas), who lost his seat after Republican state leaders — at DeLay’s urging — implemented a rare mid-census redistricting plan, hopes to avenge his loss by defeating DeLay next year.

Lampson likely can count on national help, as Democrats across the country would like nothing more than to bring down DeLay. The former Congressman raised $503,000 and ended the quarter with $485,000 in cash on hand.

Freshman Rep. Melissa Bean (Ill.), viewed as perhaps the most vulnerable House Democratic target in 2006, raised the most money of any threatened Democrat.

She added $460,000 to her stash and put $735,000 in her kitty, all of which she will probably need to fend off three Republicans seeking retribution for her knocking off longtime Rep. Phil Crane (R-Ill.) last year.

Businessman David McSweeney banked $229,000 toward his bid to win the GOP nomination in Illinois’ 8th district, while businesswoman Teresa Bartels socked away $181,000.

Kathy Salvi, wife of failed 1996 Senate candidate Al Salvi, recently announced that she too may join the Republican fray against Bean. Like Bartels and McSweeney, she is personally wealthy.

Brian Herman, Bean’s spokesman, said Bean “recognizes the importance of raising the resources” and knows it is essential to running a competitive campaign.

The Democratic Caucus and Republican Conference are keeping their eyes on a variety of potentially vulnerable Members.

Democrats call their Member protection program Frontline. In addition to Bean, it comprises Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Leonard Boswell (Iowa), Chet Edwards (Texas), Stephanie Herseth (S.D.), Brian Higgins (N.Y.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Charlie Melancon (La.), Dennis Moore (Kan.) and John Salazar (Colo.).

None received more than 56 percent of the vote in 2004, and each ended June with at least $300,000 in the bank.

“Everybody’s working really hard, they are getting it done,” said Rep. Mike Thompson (Calif.), who heads the Frontline effort for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Edwards collected $434,000 as of June 30 and has $562,000 on hand, Melancon raised $422,000 this quarter and has $524,000 in the bank, and Salazar brought in $371,000 in the last three months and has $474,000 on hand.

Barrow, meanwhile, brought in $278,000 in contributions since April 1 and has $459,000 in the bank; Boswell raised $282,000 in the last three months and is sitting on $407,000; Higgins raised $283,000 this quarter and has $363,000 in the bank; Herseth raised $333,000 in the second quarter and has $362,000 on hand; Moore raised $267,000 and has $355,000 in his coffers; and Matheson collected $255,000 and is sitting on $333,000.

Barrow likely will face the man whose seat he won last year. Former Rep. Max Burns (R-Ga.) raised more than $200,000 in a month and banked almost all of it.

Boswell could see a tough challenge from Iowa state Senate President Jeff Lamberti (R). Lamberti raised $163,000 and saved $155,000.

Salazar, a freshman, has several Republicans looking to challenge him, but only businessman Scott Tipton reported raising any money, $102,000.

DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) restructured the Frontline program earlier this year to help the Members raise more money faster, cutting the size of the 2006 membership in half.

Several potentially vulnerable Republicans are also raising money at a steady clip — with the notable exception of Rep. John Hostettler (Ind.).

Keeping with his tradition of raising very little money, Hostettler scared up just $10,000 and banked a meager $1,000. Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth, Hostettler’s likely Democratic challenger, by contrast raised $140,000 and held onto $136,000.

Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) raised $402,000 and set aside $743,000. Attorney Lois Murphy (D), who is seeking a rematch, raised $90,000 in the quarter and had $79,000 on hand.

Freshman Rep. Mike Sodrel (R-Ind.) probably assumes that former Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.), whom he narrowly defeated in his second attempt last year, wants a rematch. Sodrel banked $420,000, while Hill has not formally declared his candidacy.

Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.), who Democrats have said will be a top target, raised $321,000 and socked away $5210,000. Joe Courtney, who lost to Simmons in 2002, is trying again. The former state Representative banked $211,000 as of June 30.

Westport First Selectwoman Dianne Farrell (D) said she will also seek a rematch with Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.). She did not file an FEC report as she just entered the race last week, but Shays raised almost $400,000 and banked about $380,000.

Republican Party leaders are working hard to keep the 10 Representatives they have deemed most at risk financially strong.

They have raised $1.62 million for the Retain Our Majority Program so far this cycle.

ROMP beneficiaries are Reps. Charles Boustany (La.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Chris Chocola (Ind.), Charlie Dent (Pa.), Jeff Fortenberry (Neb.), Robin Hayes (N.C.), Randy Kuhl (N.Y.), Mike Rogers (Ala.), Joe Schwarz (Mich.) and Heather Wilson (N.M.).

Of those Schwarz, a moderate freshman, may be most at risk from an intraparty challenge.