Measure of a Candidate? Latest Fundraising

Posted June 30, 2010 at 6:31pm

While the playing field for the Senate is all but set for this cycle, the House battleground is still a developing creature. And that makes the fundraising quarter that ended Wednesday night especially important.

The Federal Election Commission’s second-quarter filing deadline is a critical threshold for campaigns that want to be taken seriously heading into the fall. And with scores of House seats in play this cycle (Minority Leader John Boehner recently put the number at 100; Democrats say it’s much lower), party officials on both sides of the aisle will be scrutinizing those reports as they refine their target — and defense — lists.

Here’s a look at some of the campaigns whose second-quarter reports will be of particular interest.

From the moment he was elected in 2008, Republicans have been keen on knocking off Rep. Walt Minnick (D) in Idaho’s heavily conservative 1st district. But after national Republicans’ handpicked recruit bombed in the state’s late-May primary, there’s some doubt as to whether state Rep. Raul Labrador (R) can unseat Minnick. A strong June fundraising performance by Labrador would go a long way toward ensuring Republicans that Idaho’s 1st district still has a top-tier race.

Similarly, Arkansas state Sen. Joyce Elliott (D) is in need of a strong June on the fundraising front.

Elliott finished first in her May primary in the 2nd district but was forced into a runoff against state Speaker Robbie Wills that got particularly nasty. Wills attacked Elliott for her “extreme” views on abortion and gun rights and made the case that he was a more electable general election candidate in the conservative district.

Elliott won the runoff by 8 points, but a healthy fundraising showing (especially in areas outside her base in Pulaski County) would help prove to national party leaders that the open seat of retiring Rep. Vic Snyder (D) is one that can be defended this fall. Elliott’s fundraising will be especially important because her general election foe is attorney Tim Griffin, a top GOP recruit this cycle who had raised more than $603,000 through the end of April.

Next door, in Arkansas’ 1st district, farm broadcaster Rick Crawford needs to pick up his fundraising pace if Republicans are going to do anything more than talk about making a serious run at the seat of retiring Rep. Marion Berry (D).

After nearly a year of campaigning (three months of which came after Berry announced his retirement) Crawford had raised just more than $317,000. Meanwhile, former Berry aide Chad Causey (D) raised more than $463,000 in a little more than three months. Crawford had a nominal primary challenge in May, but even so he’ll have to put up a strong second quarter or national Republicans will probably look for better opportunities.

A more recent Republican recruit with something to prove this quarter is Virginia state House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith. Griffith got into Virginia’s 9th district contest just two weeks before the end of the first fundraising quarter, and six weeks later he showed $143,000 raised. If fundraising didn’t pick up in May and June, Griffith risks being drowned out by Rep. Rick Boucher (D), who had $1.9 million in the bank at the end of April and the backing of a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that holds a more than 2-to-1 cash-on-hand advantage over the National Republican Congressional Committee.

A top Republican recruit who continues to be under scrutiny for her slow fundraising is Montgomery, Ala., City Councilwoman Martha Roby. Pre-primary reports showed she could be in for another underwhelming quarter. She brought in less than $20,000 from April 1 to May 20. If that fundraising pace didn’t improve in the second half of the quarter, Roby may be on her way to being a recruiting flop. She is already facing a July 13 2nd district runoff against a little-known tea party candidate who is starting to gain some national attention.

Like Roby, Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards (D) continues to get promoted by top party officials even though her fundraising hasn’t lived up to the hype.

Just last week, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) released a fundraising pitch for Edwards, who is running in the open seat to replace retiring Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.). Edwards has been in the 12th district race since March 2009 and has yet to break $250,000 in receipts.

The second-quarter fundraising report could also give some clarity to several crowded primaries that have yet to take place. Florida’s Democratic-controlled 8th and 24th districts are expected to be two key battlegrounds this fall, but both races feature multiple top-tier Republicans vying for the party’s nomination. The July FEC reports would be a good way for GOP candidates to distinguish themselves in those contests.

Meanwhile, in New York’s 29th district seat, which was vacated by disgraced former Rep. Eric Massa (D), the fundraising totals of both Democrat Matt Zeller and Republican Tom Reed will be closely monitored. If fundraising reports show one or both isn’t putting together a strong campaign, a candidate could still file before the state’s mid-July deadline.

It’s not just challengers who have a lot to prove this quarter. There are several targeted Members who were outraised by their challengers in the first quarter of the year and will be the subject of increased scrutiny if they let it happen again.

Reps. Mary Jo Kilroy (Ohio), Frank Kratovil (Md.), Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.), Jerry McNerney (Calif.), Carol Shea-Porter (N.H.), Harry Teague (N.M.) and Michael Arcuri (N.Y.) all are vulnerable Democrats who were outraised last quarter by the Republicans running against them.