Owens, Mills Outraising Incumbents in Rematches
In Utah’s ‘Safe Republican‘ territory, where Democrat Doug Owens is again vying for the 4th District seat he lost by 5 points in 2014, he is one of the rare rematch candidates to have raised more than the incumbent.
Freshman Republican Rep. Mia Love has been looking to solidify her hold in a district Mitt Romney carried by 37 points in 2012. She brought in $325,000 in the final three months of 2015, and spent $302,000 of it, leaving her with $781,000 in the bank. But Owens raised $350,000, spending only $135,000, and has $500,000 in the bank.
Wealthy Minnesota businessman Stewart Mills is making a second attempt to unseat the Democratic congressman who defeated him by a point and a half in 2014. Mills’ 4th-quarter fundraising report shows him raising $258,000 for his bid for the 8th District. That’s more than Rep. Rick Nolan’s $187,000, even excluding Mills’ $11,000 contribution to his own campaign. Nolan still has some $400,000 more in the bank.
In another House rematch, vulnerable New Hampshire Republican Frank Guinta was outraised by his Democratic opponent. Guinta, however, has been in hot water for campaign finance violations, and his Democratic opponent, Carol Shea-Porter, is a former member of Congress.
Shea-Porter raised $211,000 to Guinta’s $71,000. Although Guinta maintains a cash-on-hand advantage over Shea-Porter, he’ll have to make it through a primary before facing Democratic competition. His primary opponent, businessman Dan Innis, also outraised him, though by only about $20,000.
It’s much more typical, of course, for rematch challengers to lag in fundraising. That’s been the case in Maine’s 2nd District, where freshman GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a member of the Financial Services Committee, has consistently raised more than Democrat Emily Cain, whom he defeated by 5 points in 2014. But only $61,000 separated their 4th quarter fundraising hauls. Thanks to a hefty 1st quarter haul, Poliquin’s cash on hand total still dwarfs Cain’s.
The same has been true in Texas’ 23rd District, the site of a rematch between Democratic former Rep. Pete Gallego and freshman GOP Rep. Will Hurd. Gallego raised $224,000 and has $424,000 in the bank. Hurd, as he has throughout the cycle, raised more, taking in $312,000 and leaving him with over $1 million in the bank.
In Illinois’ 10th District, Democratic former Rep. Brad Schneider has been raising serious money in his bid to take back the 10th District seat from Republican Rep. Robert J. Dold, but Dold is still raising more. The Republican raised $464,000 compared to Schneider’s $391,000. Dold also has more cash on hand.
Incumbency isn’t always a fundraising advantage. A number of challengers in competitive or closely-watched House races that aren’t rematches upended the incumbency-advantage narrative in the 3rd quarter. In Iowa’s 1st District, for example, Democrat Monica Vernon raised more than freshman Republican Rep. Rod Blum, one of the most vulnerable members of the House. She did so again in the 4th quarter.
In New Jersey’s 5th District, former Bill Clinton speech writer Josh Gottheimer again raised more than longtime GOP Rep. Scott Garrett, who angered some Republicans, including his Wall Street allies, when he said in July he wouldn’t contribute to the NRCC because of the committee’s support of gay candidates.
Tennessee GOP Rep. Scott DesJarlais has been outraised before; he barely won his 2014 primary and is facing what some have described as a more daunting challenger in young Republican Grant Starrett this year. Starrett again outraised DesJarlais this quarter, although Starrett’s $92,000 4th quarter haul is less impressive than the $733,000 haul (including a $227,000 personal loan) he reported in his first fundraising report.
The 4th quarter saw several challengers post higher numbers than incumbents for the first time. In Michigan’s 7th District, for example, Democratic state Sen. Gretchen Driskell raised more than four-term Republican Tim Walberg. Walberg only raised a few thousand dollars more than Driskell in the previous quarter, but his cash on hand has now grown to more than $1 million, while Driskell has only $604,000 in the bank.
California Republican Steve Knight’s fundraising got off to a rough start this cycle. He took in only $29,000 during the first quarter of 2015, but as a member of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Patriot Program for vulnerable members, he got a significant boost in the 2nd quarter, posting an impressive $405,000 haul. He slipped again in the 3rd quarter, though, raising just $77,000. In the final quarter of 2015, his haul returned to the six-figures. But Democratic attorney Bryan Caforio, who got in the race in December, managed to raise $35,000 more in less time.