Mixed Financial Bag for Would-Be Senators

Posted December 5, 2008 at 6:16pm

Post-general election fundraising reports were filed last week with the Federal Election Commission, providing the first glimpse at the size of the campaign war chests of some House Members mentioned as possible Senate candidates in 2010.

There are already two known open Senate seats next cycle: Kansas and Florida.

Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) surprised most of the Sunshine State’s political class when he announced last week that he won’t seek a second term in 2010. A handful of House Members in both parties are now looking at the open seat, but their decisions about whether to enter the race likely hinge on the moves of two much more prominent possible candidates back home.

On the Republican side, popular former Gov. Jeb Bush is considering whether to run, and his entry would no doubt clear the GOP field. But if he decides not to run, Rep. Connie Mack IV (R) could take a hard look at getting into the race. Mack, the son of former Sen. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), had about $531,000 in his re-election account as of Nov. 24, not a grand starting place for a race that will likely cost more than $20 million. Still, Mack’s name and his father’s statewide connections should make fundraising relatively easy if he were to run.

Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.), who is stepping down as GOP Conference Chairman and is believed to harbor statewide ambitions, is also being mentioned. Putnam showed a little less than $300,000 in campaign funds on Nov. 24.

Among Democrats, Reps. Ron Klein and Allen Boyd are believed to be seriously considering the contest, and both men are sitting on more than $1 million in their campaign accounts. Still, their decisions could be heavily influenced by what Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (D) decides to do. Sink, who had reportedly decided to run for re-election before Martinez made his retirement announcement, is widely viewed as Democrats’ top recruit.

In Kansas, at least one Member is definitely running for the seat held by retiring Sen. Sam Brownback (R).

Rep. Jerry Moran (R) has already filed a statement of candidacy with the FEC and the Secretary of the Senate, and he wasted no time in setting up a Senate campaign account.

Moran’s post-general fundraising report filed with the FEC last week served as a termination report for his House campaign committee. It showed that he zeroed out the balance on the account by transferring $2.4 million to another authorized committee, presumably his Senate campaign account.

But while Republicans are favored to hold Brownback’s seat, Moran could still face a competitive primary. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R) is also mulling the race and has more than $1 million on hand that he could use for a Senate run.

Elsewhere, Democrats are expected to make recruiting efforts a top priority in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Ohio.

In the Keystone State, MSNBC “Hardball” host Chris Matthews appears to be moving closer to mounting a challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter (R), but it is not certain whether he will have a clear primary field.

Democratic Reps. Allyson Schwartz and Patrick Murphy are also mulling the race. Schwartz has stockpiled more than $2 million in anticipation of running statewide at some point. But Murphy, who was just elected to a second term in a contest that was not ultimately competitive, had just $238,000 in the bank on Nov. 24.

In Kentucky, Sen. Jim Bunning (R) is considered one of the most vulnerable Senators facing re-election in 2010. There are several statewide-elected Democrats who are rumored to be looking at the race, but Rep. Ben Chandler (D) is also mentioned as a potential candidate.

Chandler, who lost a gubernatorial bid in 2003, has more than $1.1 million in the bank.

In Ohio, Sen. George Voinovich (R) could be vulnerable in a state that is trending more Democratic, if party leaders are able to recruit a top challenger. Rep. Tim Ryan (D) is a young rising star in the House and has been mentioned as a possible Senate contender before. Whether he would move to take on the two-term Senator and former two-term governor is debatable.

Ryan showed less than $300,000 in his campaign account as of last month, not an indication that he’s ramping up for a statewide run.

Finally, in North Carolina, Rep. Heath Shuler (D) has not ruled out a possible run against first-term Sen. Richard Burr (R) in 2010. Shuler has close to $1 million in the bank, but it’s still far from certain that he will make the jump next cycle.