Some Vulnerable Incumbents Broke

Posted January 31, 2007 at 6:47pm

Some of the most shaky House incumbents began 2007 almost broke.

But potentially vulnerable Senators entered the year a little better-prepared for battle.

A quick analysis of year-end campaign finance reports, which candidates submitted to the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday, showed that many vulnerable Members of Congress have serious work to do in the next few months if they are to have enough money to ward off top-tier challengers this election cycle.

Rep. Thelma Drake (R-Va.), for example, who won a second term with 51 percent of the vote in November, ended 2006 with just $3,400 in the bank. Freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), who barely eked out a win over then-Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R) and could face Fitzpatrick again in 2008, had just $17,000 on hand.

Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.), who won a much closer race than expected in November and could be vulnerable in a presidential election year, had just $11,000. Freshman Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), who knocked off veteran Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R) in November and is likely to be a top GOP target in 2008, had $30,000 on hand.

On the Senate side, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is likely to be a top target of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, ended 2006 with $436,000 in her campaign account. But Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine), who is contemplating challenging her, had $502,000 on hand.

At least one potential DSCC target was in considerably better shape. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) had more than $1.7 million in his campaign account at year’s end. Coleman will face a challenge from comedian and radio personality Al Franken (D), who reportedly is getting into the Senate race.

The campaign finance reports for GOP Sens. John Sununu (N.H.), Gordon Smith (Ore.) and John Warner (Va.) were not available at press time — in fact, many key campaign finance reports had not turned up on the FEC Web site or at the Senate Secretary’s Office by press time Wednesday evening.

Three veteran GOP Senators who remain on retirement watch have not been very aggressive about fundraising yet — though none would be considered vulnerable if he ran for re-election. Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.) finished 2006 with $462,000 on hand, while Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss.) had $343,000 and Sen. Pete Domenici (N.M.) had $261,000. Their seats could be competitive if they decided to retire.

Of all the FEC reports available at press time, the two Republican Senators with the fattest bank accounts were Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), with more than $3 million, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), with more than $2.6 million. Cornyn is considered a shoo-in for re-election, while Graham could face a Republican primary challenge from the right.

On the Democratic side, one of the potentially vulnerable incumbents, Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.), had $952,000 in her coffers on Dec. 31. Rep. Richard Baker (R-La.), who is openly contemplating challenging her, had just $37,000 on hand.

Some potentially weak House incumbents were in fairly decent shape financially at the end of 2006. In Arizona’s highly competitive 8th district, freshman Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) benefited from an easier than expected victory in November and was able to bank $142,000 — a decent head start against any Republican thinking of taking her on in 2008.

Rep. Ric Keller (R-Fla.), who had a scare in 2006, still had $160,000 in the bank. Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), who faced a tough battle against a multimillionaire in 2006, had $211,000 left over.

Freshman Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), who won a highly publicized battle against wounded Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth (D), nevertheless had $141,000 in his bank account at the end of 2006. Although no high-profile Democrat has stepped forward to challenge him yet, Roskam’s suburban Chicago district is trending Democratic — and the Democratic turnout could be even higher if Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is on the national ticket next year.

Meanwhile, Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.), who has been bruised on the ethics front and took just 48 percent of the vote in his victory in November despite the conservative lean of his Sacramento-area district, had $288,000 in the bank at the end of 2006.

Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.), who seems headed for a rematch with state Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D), ended the year with $72,000 in the bank.

Nicole Duran, David M. Drucker, Marnette Federis and Evan Haine-Roberts contributed to this report.