Meet The Challengers Raising More Money Than Members of Congress

In a sign of anti-Washington sentiment, 19 upstarts raised more money in the fourth quarter than their better-financed opponents.

John Zangas, a furloughed worker, protests the government shutdown on Capitol Hill on October 2, 2013 in Washington, DC. 
National Journal
Josh Kraushaar
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Josh Kraushaar
Feb. 3, 2014, 9:01 a.m.

At least 19 mem­bers of Con­gress were out­raised by out­side chal­lengers in the fourth quarter of 2013, an early sign of the anti-Wash­ing­ton sen­ti­ment suf­fus­ing the polit­ic­al en­vir­on­ment this year.

It’s typ­ic­ally very dif­fi­cult to out­raise sit­ting mem­bers of Con­gress, whose in­flu­ence and name iden­ti­fic­a­tion give them ready-made ac­cess to pro­spect­ive donors. And the de­clin­ing num­ber of swing dis­tricts makes it even harder for a chal­lenger to make their mark.

But even though the House looks highly un­likely to be in play for Demo­crats, many in­cum­bents aren’t pre­par­ing for their reelec­tion as ag­gress­ively as pos­sible.

The list in­cludes 12 Re­pub­lic­ans and sev­en Demo­crats, in­clud­ing many mem­bers fa­cing tough reelec­tion cam­paigns. New York Rep. Chris Gib­son, rep­res­ent­ing one of the most Demo­crat­ic dis­tricts held by a House Re­pub­lic­an, was nar­rowly out­raised by ven­ture cap­it­al­ist Sean Eldridge, the hus­band of The New Re­pub­lic own­er Chris Hughes. Rep. Mike Coff­man, R-Colo., brought in over $400,000, but former Col­or­ado House Speak­er An­drew Ro­man­off took in even more — $450,000. Cali­for­nia Re­pub­lic­an Gary Miller, the most vul­ner­able mem­ber of Con­gress in a gen­er­al elec­tion, was out­raised by two Demo­crat­ic op­pon­ents. Gwen Gra­ham, the daugh­ter of former Flor­ida Sen. Bob Gra­ham, came close to doub­ling the haul of GOP Rep. Steve South­er­land.

On the Demo­crat­ic side, Ari­zona Rep. Ron Barber barely de­feated re­tired Air Force col­on­el Martha Mc­Sally in 2012. Back for a re­match, she eas­ily out­raised him, $313,000 to $250,000. Eth­ic­ally-em­battled Rep. John Tier­ney, D-Mass., was out­raised by both his primary chal­lenger, Ir­aq war vet­er­an Seth Moulton, and his 2012 Re­pub­lic­an op­pon­ent Richard Ti­sei. Rep. Rick No­lan, D-Minn., who could be the only mem­ber of the class of 1974 left stand­ing, was out­raised by busi­ness­man Stew­art Mills.

There were also nu­mer­ous mem­bers of Con­gress who could face primary trouble, based on their quarterly re­ports. Ten­ness­ee GOP Rep. Scott Des­Jar­lais only brought in $18,000, a small frac­tion of the $146,000 his primary chal­lenger Jim Tracy raised. Cali­for­nia Demo­crat­ic Rep. Mike Honda, fa­cing an in­tra­party chal­lenge from Obama cam­paign staffer Ro Khanna, was badly out­raised, $402,000 to $251,000. Michigan fresh­man Re­pub­lic­an Kerry Bentivolio only raised $127,000, about half of what Re­pub­lic­an busi­ness­man Dave Trott brought in.

Oth­er not­able mem­bers of Con­gress who were out­raised in the fourth quarter: Cali­for­nia Rep. Dav­id Valadao, Geor­gia Rep. Hank John­son, Iowa Rep. Steve King, Michigan Rep. Dan Ben­ishek, North Car­o­lina Rep. Wal­ter Jones, New Hamp­shire Rep. Car­ol Shea-Port­er, New Mex­ico Rep. Steve Pearce, New York Rep. Tim Bish­op, and New York Rep. Tom Reed. Valadao and Ben­ishek are top Demo­crat­ic tar­gets, while Re­pub­lic­ans are eager to knock off Shea-Port­er and Bish­op.

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