By Jim Ellis
April 19, 2019 — The Federal Election Commission reports are now in the public domain for first quarter 2019, and the amount of money being raised early suggests we could be headed for another record spending year in the 2020 campaigns.
While most incumbent House members show somewhat less than $500,000 in their accounts, many possess multimillion-dollar campaign war chests. In most cases, those comprising this latter group have been accumulating their funds for years without having to spend much on their own re-election efforts.
A handful of members, 36 to be exact, had strong first quarters defined as raising over $500,000 in the first 12 weeks of the new calendar year. Of the three dozen, and predictably so, many are in House leadership positions such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who obtained $1.7 million since the new year began.
The quarter’s top fundraiser, however, was House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), who gathered in $2.46 million. And the range among the 36 most prolific fundraisers stretched from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ (R-WA) $503,000 to Scalise’s aforementioned total. In all, 24 of the top House fundraisers are Democrats versus 12 Republicans.
Cash-on-hand is another very important category in assessing political strength, and here we see 41 members (29 Democrats; 12 Republicans) who brandish bank accounts in excess of $1.5 million.
The incumbent with the most available cash-on-hand is House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) with $5.54 million. Interestingly, the same committee’s deposed chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) who lost his leadership post when the Democrats gained control of the House, is close behind at $4.92 million.
Very few of the 41 currently have competitive races, but some are expecting challenges to develop, often in the party primary. Nunes, for example, had a competitive November race in his Fresno County anchored district and could face another in 2020, though his previous opponent, attorney Andrew Janz (D), will not be seeking a re-match.
Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX), who had a surprisingly close call against weak opposition last November, already reports $1.73 million in his campaign account, so he is clearly getting ready to seek another term.
Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Canby/Salem) who just drew a Democratic primary challenger last week, has a campaign treasury exceeding $2.2 million, of which he will now likely be forced to spend a great deal. And, Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo), who is at the top of liberal groups’ Democratic target list, is also preparing for a political battle. His cash-on-hand line reveals a holding exceeding $2.8 million.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, 17 members who could be in competitive general or primary elections hold less than $200,000 in their accounts.
Florida Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee), who last year repelled a strong Democratic primary challenge from former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, reports only $29,446 in his campaign account. In central Florida, Rep. Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee), who overcame ex-Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) spending more than $600,000 against him in the 2018 party primary, shows just $75,996 on his committee report.
Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who has placed her House campaign account on “inactive status” until her fate is sealed in the national campaign, reported just $40,496 after transferring $2.5 million to her presidential committee. Her announced congressional primary opponent, state Sen. Kai Kahele (D-Hilo), posts $220,600 cash-on-hand.
Another, Brooklyn, NY Rep. Yvette Clarke who escaped with a surprisingly close 53-47 percent Democratic primary win last year, said she is revamping her campaign operation, but little evidence of such exists. She reports only having $69,620 in the bank.
And, Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King (Kiron/Sioux City), who has been under attack for perceived white supremacist statements, has only $18,385 cash-on-hand. His top primary opponent, state Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull), reports more than $240,000.
Looking at the freshmen members who receive the most national media attention, all did well in first quarter fundraising. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) banked just over $727,000 and has $826,361 cash-on-hand. Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minneapolis) raised $832,000+ with $606,522 remaining in her account. And, Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) brought in just under $317,000 and has $305,873 in her campaign committee.