Money Shows Who the Real Challengers Are

The Federal Election Commission has finally published the 4th quarter 2013 House financial numbers, and through the reports we can begin to ascertain the challenger candidates who are going to put forth serious political efforts later this election year.

Some who were predicted to be strong contenders are proving such:

• In Arizona, former Air Force officer Martha McSally (R), who lost to Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ-2) by just under 2,500 votes in 2012, out-raised the congressman by just over $63,000 in the 4th quarter.

• Democratic former Colorado state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff outpaced incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO-6) by $45,000. Both have posted highly impressive off-year financial numbers. Each has raised just over $2 million during 2013.

• And, in what will likely to be a Democrat on Democrat general election in California, former Obama Administration official Ro Khanna again attracted more money than did incumbent Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA-17). For the off-election year, Khanna raised just over $2.01 million as compared to the congressman’s $1.2 million. Some of Khanna’s money carries over from his previous short-lived effort when he declared his 2012 candidacy against then-Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA-15), but withdrew when the congressman chose to seek re-election. Even so, Khanna’s 2013 campaign effort has been substantial.

Others are just coming into view as emerging viable candidates:

• In north Florida, Gwen Graham (D), daughter of former governor and senator, Bob Graham, has proved that she is a bona-fide candidate in her own right. Graham reported receipts of $475,000 in the fourth quarter, ahead of two-term Rep. Steve Southerland’s (R-FL-2) $259,000. The district is favorable to Southerland, but Graham’s early financial performance proves her challenge is a serious one.

• In the Bakersfield, Calif., district, Democratic candidate Amanda Renteria, who is taking some hits over biographical discrepancies, posted $337,000 for the quarter as compared to freshman incumbent Rep. David Valadao’s (R-CA-21) $232,000. The congressman, then a state assemblyman, won easily in 2012 but this district could become highly competitive.

• Also in southern California, it’s been clear for some time that San Bernardino County Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-31) is going to have another difficult re-election challenge, but the surprise here is which Democratic opponent is off to the stronger start. While Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar was expected to again be Miller’s main challenger, even though he failed to make it through the June qualifying election in 2012, has fallen well behind attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes in the money chase. Reyes booked $293,000 in the 4th quarter as compared to Aguilar’s $147,000. If this trend continues, Rep. Miller may have a different opponent come the general election than originally expected.

• Turning to the Iron Range of Minnesota, businessman Stewart Mills (R), a first-time candidate, raised $205,000 during the last reporting period in 2013, making just under $450,000 for the campaign. His 4th quarter receipts number was $62,000 more than Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN-8) obtained. This district should be solidly in the Democratic column, but it did flip to former Rep. Chip Craavack for one term in the 2010 election, so an upset cannot be discounted.

• The eastern-most CD on Long Island, N.Y., may host one of the most expensive campaigns in the nation this year. In the 4th quarter, Republican challenger Lee Zedlin raised $342,000, as compared to incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop’s (D-NY-1) $278,000, both strong numbers. But, they both fall well behind GOP self-funding candidate George Demos who has $2.2 million.

• And again in New York, but toward the far western section of the state, Tompkins County Legislator Martha Robertson (D) also out-paced her Republican incumbent opponent, Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY-23). The challenger topped the $273,000 mark versus $243,000 for the congressman.

As we know, money does not tell the entire story of a campaign. But, in the early phases, it is generally determinative of viability. These numbers tell us that all of the aforementioned will continue to make political noise.

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