Challengers Thriving in Pre-Primary FEC Reports

Posted July 25, 2008 at 6:05pm

With primaries on tap in three states next week, newly released fundraising numbers provide a glimpse into the status of several competitive House races.

The bottom line: Incumbents have some reason to be worried.

In four races that are expected to be close in November, challengers surpassed the fundraising totals of the incumbents from April 1 to July 16, and in two of those cases ended the reporting period with more cash on hand.

Meanwhile, the Democratic and Republican primaries in Missouri’s open 9th district, where Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R) is leaving to run for governor, appear to be wide-open affairs — at least on the fundraising front.

But Michigan’s 13th district, where Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D) is facing two credible primary challengers, may not be as competitive as pundits once thought. Neither of her challengers — state Sen. Martha Scott (D) or ex-state Rep. Mary Waters (D) — bothered to post campaign finance reports, as required by the Federal Election Commission late last week, suggesting that their campaigns are being operated on a shoestring.

Kilpatrick, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus who has brought top House leaders to the Detroit area in recent days to campaign for her, raised $264,000 from April 1 to July 16 and had $458,000 in the bank.

Voters are heading to the polls on Aug. 5 in Kansas, Michigan and Missouri. In Georgia, in what is expected to be a decidedly low-turnout affair, Democrats will vote in a runoff to determine who will challenge Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) in the fall. The candidates are former state Rep. Jim Martin, who appears to be favored by most of the Democratic establishment, and DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones. Martin raised $227,000 between July 1 and July 16 and had $56,000 in the bank. Jones’ report was not available.

Beyond Kilpatrick, none of the incumbents on the ballot next Tuesday face any peril in their respective primaries. But at least five — Reps. Nancy Boyda (D-Kan.), Dennis Moore (D-Kan.), Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.) — face vigorous contests in the fall. And all but Knollenberg were outraised by their likely challengers in the latest reporting period.

Ex-Rep. Jim Ryun and state Treasurer Lynn Jenkins are competing in the GOP primary for the right to square off against Boyda. Based on his superior fundraising totals and more vigorous campaign — at least on the surface — Ryun may be the favorite in the primary, though Jenkins had more on hand as of July 16 for a last-minute advertising push.

From April to mid-July, Ryun raised $447,000 and spent $684,000 — more than five times as much as Jenkins shelled out. Ryun closed the period with $223,000 on hand, compared with $489,000 for Jenkins.

Boyda, who has resisted attempts by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to come to her aid, raised $243,000 and banked $892,000 through July 16. Regardless of who ends up the Republican nominee, this race should be one of the most competitive of the fall.

Whether the campaign in the adjoining 3rd district is quite as close remains to be seen. But Republicans have to be encouraged by the fundraising numbers recently posted by Moore’s challenger, state Sen. Nick Jordan (R).

Jordan raised $481,000 from April 1 to July 16 and finished the period with $616,000 in the bank. Moore raised $337,000 but still has a substantial cash advantage over his challenger, having banked more than $1.1 million.

Despite big wins in the past two cycles, Moore’s Kansas City-area district gave President Bush 55 percent of the vote in 2004. While the Democrat has beaten back hard-fought challenges in the past, Jordan could be his toughest foe yet.

Former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes (D), who is challenging Graves in Missouri’s 6th district, not only outraised the Congressman during the fundraising period but also finished with more cash on hand. She took in $477,000 and banked $962,000; Graves’ numbers were $330,000 and $936,000, respectively.

The same scenario existed in Michigan’s 7th district, where state Sen. Mark Schauer (D) not only outraised Walberg but had more cash on hand. Schauer collected $428,000 and banked $929,000. Walberg raised $365,000 and had $855,000 on hand.

The fundraising was even more vigorous in Michigan’s 9th district, where former state Lottery Commissioner Gary Peters (D) raised an impressive $570,000 for the reporting period and banked almost $1.1 million. But he still has a long way to go to catch Knollenberg, who took in $731,000 and banked almost $1.9 million. Knollenberg outspent his 2006 challenger by almost 8-1 and won by only 6 points, so Democrats do not need to be disheartened by the fundraising disparity between Peters and the incumbent.

Meanwhile, Republicans are currently favored in the race to replace Hulshof, but Democrats are hoping to contest the district vigorously. But the GOP clearly has the financial advantage for now.

The leading Republican contenders, state Rep. Bob Onder and former state Tourism Director Blaine Luetkemeyer, finished the reporting period with about the same amount of cash in the bank — $153,000 for Onder and $141,000 for Luetkemeyer. But Luetkemeyer raised more during the period, $396,000 to Onder’s $99,000.

On the Democratic side, none of the top candidates had a particularly impressive fundraising performance. State Rep. Judy Baker raised $188,000 and banked $140,000, while the other top contender, former state Speaker Steve Gaw, raised $107,000 and finished with $40,000 in the bank.