By Jim Ellis
April 19, 2017 — As we all know, actions speak louder than words. The US House first quarter campaign finance reports (through March 31, 2017) were publicized Monday and, tracking those members who have publicly indicated at least some interest in declaring a Senate challenge, we now have some tangible information to gauge which individuals might be serious about making a statewide run. A look below at the Senate incumbent and House challenger(s):
Arizona: Sen. Jeff Flake (R)
• Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix)
$677,542 raised; $136,496 spent; $2,804,679 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
Rep. Sinema has failed to confirm rumors that she is planning to run for Senate or governor. Considering that incumbent Sen. Flake is appearing in a more vulnerable state than Gov. Doug Ducey (R), it is more reasonable to think that a Sinema Senate challenge is the more likely. The congresswoman’s aggressive early campaign fundraising and already reaching just short of the $3 million mark in cash-on-hand makes her a very serious potential challenger.
Florida: Sen. Bill Nelson (D)
• Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Okeechobee)
$73,552 raised; $59,359 spent; $84,848 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
Rep. Rooney indicated several times that he has not closed the door on challenging Sen. Nelson. With little fundraising effort in the first quarter and Gov. Rick Scott (R) positioning himself for a Senate challenge, the financial numbers confirm that Rep. Rooney will not enter the statewide race.
Indiana: Sen. Joe Donnelly (D)
• Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg)
$706,414 raised; $136,418 spent; $1,620,394 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
• Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg)
$321,166 raised; $88,501 spent; $1,548,229 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
Both congressmen Messer and Rokita have impressive campaign accounts and are well positioned financially to launch a challenge against Sen. Donnelly. Messer has been the more aggressive early fundraiser, but it is conceivable that both could enter the Senate race.
Michigan: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D)
• Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph)
$189,614 raised; $89,455 spent; $593,391 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
Rep. Upton did make public statements that he is not ruling out challenging Sen. Stabenow, but the early fundraising numbers at this time don’t suggest he is preparing for a multi-million dollar statewide campaign.
Missouri: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D)
• Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin)
$804,264 raised; $204,798 spent; $2,767,789 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
While talk surrounds an in-state recruitment effort of newly-elected Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) to challenge Sen. McCaskill, Rep. Wagner is clearly moving forward with her own effort. Her impressive first-quarter fundraising and cash-on-hand figure makes it clear that she will wage a serious Senate campaign effort.
Nevada: Sen. Dean Heller (R)
• Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas)
$73,104 raised; $47,137 spent; $274,715 cash-on-hand; $5,000 debt
Rep. Titus is another House member saying that she is not closing the door on a Senate challenge. Her paltry first quarter fundraising, however, suggests that her earlier comments do not portend launching an actual statewide campaign. Though Sen. Heller is the most vulnerable Republican standing for re-election, no Democrat has yet come forward to announce a candidacy.
North Dakota: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D)
• Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck)
$322,390 raised; $76,518 spent; $641,280 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
Considering this is an at-large congressional state, Rep. Cramer’s finances are in decent early position for either a run for re-election or to challenge Sen. Heitkamp. The congressman still maintains he is months away from making a decision about launching a challenger race. State Sen. Tom Campbell, who has the ability to self-fund a North Dakota statewide campaign, appears positioning himself to run for either the Senate or the open House seat if Rep. Cramer opts for the Heitkamp challenge.
Ohio: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D)
• Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Galena/Franklin County)
$1,376,241 raised; $243,776 spent; $6,300,018 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
Rep. Tiberi’s early major fundraising effort certainly signals he is looking at a political endeavor beyond seeking re-election to the House. Is an announcement soon forthcoming? Tiberi’s finances certainly suggest such. State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) is already challenging Sen. Brown, but Tiberi clearly has the resources to contend for the nomination. The winner will have plenty of national Republican support in the general election.
Pennsylvania: Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D)
• Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler/Erie)
$181,996 raised; $89,085 spent; $835,012 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
Rep. Kelly indicated two weeks ago that he may be interested in challenging Sen. Casey. If so, he will need to substantially increase his fundraising operation. In comparison, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R) spent over $27 million to win his re-election campaign last November.
Texas: Sen. Ted Cruz (R)
• Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio)
$218,822 raised; $63,219 spent; $282,835 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
• Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso)
$590,656 raised; $353,785 spent; $398,699 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
Rep. O’Rourke has now announced for the Senate, and did so at the tail end of the quarter. Therefore, he will have to make substantial fundraising progress to obtain the multi-millions of dollars it will take to run a credible challenge against Sen. Cruz.
Rep. Castro says he will make a decision in the next several weeks about also entering the Senate race. His fundraising so far suggests that he will not do so.
In 2012, Sen. Cruz spent over $14 million to win the seat for the first time.
West Virginia: Sen. Joe Manchin (D)
• Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington)
$367,726 raised; $49,367 spent; $1,035,718 cash-on-hand; $5,045 debt
Rep. Jenkins has an impressive amount in the bank for a state the size of West Virginia. Therefore, he can afford to wait longer about deciding whether to challenge Sen. Manchin. If he runs, Rep. Jenkins will almost assuredly face a Republican primary challenge from Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.