- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - U.S. Reps. Jim Himes and Elizabeth Esty have raised far more than their Republican rivals, each pulling in more than $1 million for this year’s election, but the GOP vowed Tuesday the races will be highly competitive as they try to break Democrats’ lock on Congress in Connecticut.

Himes raised about $1.2 million by the end of the year, compared with $303,000 by Republican Dan Debicella. Esty raised $1.1 million, compared with $325,000 by Republican Mark Greenberg, much of that from a $130,500 loan to himself.

Himes had $1.2 million cash on hand, while Esty had $846,000. Debicella and Greenberg had $273,000 and $36,000, respectively.

Debicella, a former state senator who lost to Himes in 2010 for the Fairfield County seat, said he only began fundraising about three months ago and is well ahead of his pace last time. He said he expects to raise between $2 million and $3 million.

“I think once again you’re going to see this this be one of the premier competitive races in the Northeast as it was in 2010,” DeBicella said.

DeBicella said he actually outpaced Himes in the fourth quarter in individual contributions. He said Himes gets a significant amount of his contributions from Washington and political action committees, which his campaign said he’s not proactively soliciting.

Maryli Secrest, Himes‘ campaign manager, said Himes is proud of the hundreds of grassroots supporters who have contributed to his campaign. Himes has raised more than $700,000 from individuals.

“It will be interesting to find out where the GOP candidates really stand as they compete with each other over who will be the worst advocate for gun violence prevention, women’s reproductive rights, and middle class families,” Secrest said.

DeBicella’s campaign said Himes was trying to change the conversation away from his failed record on creating jobs and health care, saying 1.3 million jobs have been lost on his watch. Democrats’ counter that the economy has added 3.1 million jobs since Himes took office and that the new health care law benefited Connecticut residents.

Democrats are vulnerable because of troubles implementing the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, said Ian Prior, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Esty also is in trouble because of contributions she returned by a company regulated by her husband when he was commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Prior said.

“There is no question that Elizabeth Esty is the most vulnerable incumbent in Connecticut,” Prior said.

Esty said last year she returned $3,500 in contributions from Northeast Utilities employees to end “an unnecessary distraction.” She said she has never had a conversation with her husband about campaign contributions and his job at DEEP, which he just left to return to teaching at Yale University, and she has declined donations from any individuals or organizations with pending cases before DEEP.

“Throughout her 2012 and 2014 campaigns, Elizabeth has received strong support from thousands across Connecticut and across the country, including many leaders in the environmental and energy fields who recognize her record and her knowledge on these complex issues,” said Anna Moffett, finance director for Elizabeth Esty for Congress.

Dr. William Petit, whose wife and two daughters were killed in a 2007 home invasion, told reporters in November he was “50-50” on running for Congress and had not made a decision. A message was left Tuesday for Petit, who has shown no signs of running for the seat held by Esty.

John Shaban, another Republican running for the seat held by Himes, raised $41,000.

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