Some Retreads Still Learning Importance of Early Cash

Posted July 16, 2007 at 6:02pm

When challengers fall just short in their races against well-entrenched incumbents, they often lament that a little more money would have made the difference.

But how many of them actually take that message to heart?

A Roll Call analysis of 16 House races where the 2006 loser is taking a second crack at the winner shows that while some of the also-rans have dramatically picked up their fundraising pace, others lag badly in the money chase and are performing so sluggishly on the financial front that they may not be able to hold off intraparty challenges this cycle.

In North Carolina’s 8th district, teacher Larry Kissell (D) finished just 330 votes behind Rep. Robin Hayes (R) in November, despite being outspent 3-1. Kissell ran an outsider’s campaign last time and didn’t get much attention from national Democratic leaders.

This time around, House Democrats have embraced Kissell’s second run for the Charlotte-area seat, and both House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) and Rep. Artur Davis (Ala.), a top Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recruiter, have headlined fundraisers for him. Still, Kissell was able to raise only $145,000 from April 1 to June 30 — less than half of what Hayes, who is personally wealthy, took in — and now state Rep. Rick Glazier (D) is taking a serious look at the House race.

The same scenario is unfolding in Colorado’s 4th district, where former state Rep. Angie Paccione (D) held Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R) to just 46 percent of the vote in 2006. Although Paccione finished fewer than 6,000 votes behind Musgrave in a very conservative Fort Collins-based district, many national Democratic leaders have concluded that they would like another candidate running there.

Paccione did herself no good by raising just $91,000 in the past three months and banking $107,000. Businesswoman Betsy Markey (D), a former top aide to Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), raised $60,000 after entering the race a few weeks ago. More significantly, Musgrave, a favorite of social conservatives, took in $244,000 and banked $400,000.

In two other districts, highly touted Democratic challengers were, on the fundraising front at least, way behind the Republican House incumbents they are again hoping to oust.

In Ohio’s 15th district, Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy (D), who recently saw another highly regarded Democrat drop out of the race, collected just $38,000 and finished June with $26,000 in the bank. Rep. Deborah Pryce (R), who finished fewer than 1,100 votes ahead of Kilroy in November, raised $386,000 and banked $453,000.

And in New Jersey’s 7th district, where state Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D) is seeking a rematch with Rep. Mike Ferguson (R) after finishing about 2,500 votes out of the money in 2006, Ferguson outraised Stender by more than 20-1. Stender has said, however, that she will not ramp up her Congressional fundraising until after she secures re-election to the Legislature this November.

In some districts, even a solid fundraising performance isn’t enough to ward off primary challengers. In Washington’s 8th district, Democratic challenger Darcy Burner, who finished 7,000 votes behind Rep. Dave Reichert (R) in the fall, raised $200,000 in the second quarter of the year to Reichert’s $257,000. But state Sen. Rodney Tom (D) also is seeking the Democratic nomination in the swing suburban Seattle district, although he has yet to raise any money.

Some Democratic challengers from 2006 who are seeking rematches in 2008 actually outraised their Republican foes from April 1 to June 30, including Charlie Brown in California’s 4th district ($198,000 to embattled Rep. John Doolittle’s $129,000) and Eric Massa in New York’s 29th district ($178,000 to Rep. Randy Kuhl’s $72,000).

Massa, however, has a Democratic primary on his hands with business executive David Nachbar, who reported $215,000 in receipts in the quarter — $200,000 from his own pocket.

Then there is the unusual circumstance of Ohio’s 2nd district, where Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) was outraised by all three of the candidates — two Democrats and one Republican — who are trying to unseat her.

But some shaky Republican incumbents are in tremendous shape financially — even with their Democratic challengers also raising a lot of money. In the suburban Chicago 10th district, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) took in $617,000 from April 1 to June 30 and ended the period with $1.1 million in his campaign account.

The two Democrats who are trying to unseat him — 2006 nominee Dan Seals and former Clinton administration official Jay Footlik — took in $538,000 combined, suggesting that the race could shape up to be one of the most expensive in the country in 2008.

In some of the rematch races for House seats that Democrats won last year by ousting Republican incumbents, the former GOP Members do not appear to have lost their fundraising touch. That’s particularly true in Kansas’ 2nd district, where ex-Rep. Jim Ryun (R) took in $352,000 for the second quarter, more than Rep. Nancy Boyda (D), who raised $234,000, or state Treasurer Lynn Jenkins, who also is seeking the GOP nomination and collected $302,000 in her first quarter of fundraising. Boyda, however, had more cash on hand as of June 30 than either of the Republicans, with $347,000 in the bank.