Dead Heat In Campaign Cash

032002, story, campaign finance reform, soft money, JM
Republicans are keeping pace with Democrats in raising money for this fall's Senate races, even though the GOP lost control of the chamber last year.

A Federal Election Commission report released Tuesday shows candidates raised roughly $72.6 million from January 2001 through this March and spent just over $31.4 million.

Democratic senators hold edges in fund-raising in some key races. However, Democratic fund-raiser Robert Farmer said the overall totals are striking given the majority status Senate Democrats have held for the past year. Republicans control the House and the White House.

"All things being equal I think it still suggests the Republicans have a greater ability to raise money, because even where the Democrats have control and are in a much more powerful position these days, they have only managed to keep up with the Republicans," said Farmer, campaign manager for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

In the House, Republican candidates hold a collective edge, raising at least $149 million to $135 million for Democratic candidates and outspending them by about $7 million, the FEC analysis of the most recent campaign finance reports shows.

The situation in individual races varies widely.

Several Democratic senators targeted by Republicans had no primary opposition and held fund-raising advantages of $1 million or more at the end of the first quarter over their GOP challengers, some of them with primaries.

Those include Democratic Sens. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, Iowa's Tom Harkin, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Jean Carnahan of Missouri and Georgia's Max Cleland.

In three of four open Senate races, a Republican finished the first quarter with a substantial fund-raising edge over GOP and Democratic rivals.

In North Carolina, Republican Elizabeth Dole finished March with nearly $5.5 million raised, more than $2 million more than the leading Democrat, Erskine Bowles.

In South Carolina, Republican Lindsey Graham raised $4.2 million to Democrat Alexander Sanders' $1.8 million. In Texas, Republican John Cornyn collected $4.1 million through March, compared with $3.2 million for Democrat Ron Kirk.

One open Senate race has yet to become a multimillion-dollar one: In Tennessee, Democrat Bob Clement raised $570,669, about $200,000 more than Republican Lamar Alexander.

In an incumbent-vs.-incumbent race in the House caused by redistricting, Connecticut Republican Rep. Nancy Johnson raised about $1.7 million through the first quarter, compared with $988,542 for Democratic Rep. James Maloney.

In West Virginia, GOP Rep. Shelly Moore Capito raised about $1 million through March, compared with $995,307 for her Democratic challenger, James Humphreys.

Several incumbents have raised substantial sums despite facing no major-party challenger. Kerry, for example, has raised at least $5 million, money he could use for a 2004 presidential bid if he decides to run. Sen. John Warner, R-Va., has raised at least $1.9 million.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which raises money for Senate candidates nationally, looks at fund-raising race by race, and different factors play into each, spokeswoman Tovah Ravitz-Meehan said.

For example, she said, Kirk became the Democratic nominee in Texas after a primary and runoff, while in North Carolina, five Democrats are competing in a primary.

"We do tend to look at them more on a case by case because that's how you effect change," she said. "Our job is to sort of be consultants to these campaigns."

Ravitz-Meehan said the DSCC is encouraging candidates to budget and run "a tight ship." She noted that Democratic Senate candidates finished the first quarter with more cash on hand; about $51 million, compared with about $48 million for Republican candidates, according to the FEC report.

The FEC analysis didn't count the national party committees that also help candidates, such as the DSCC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

As of May 1, the NRSC had $27.5 million on hand, compared with $23.7 million for the DSCC.

"I think overall, we're pleased at where we are overall, but we know there's still six months left in the election cycle," NRSC spokesman Dan Allen said.

The NRSC and its House counterpart will get a boost next month from a fund-raiser President Bush plans to headline for them, likely raising at least $20 million.