- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Rep. Paul DeMarco has the fundraising lead in the crowded GOP primary for Alabama’s 6th Congressional District seat.

DeMarco, of Homewood, on Tuesday reported $850,949 in contributions. Investment firm executive Will Brooke reported raising $489,297 in contributions and he loaned his campaign another $250,000, bringing his total war chest to $730,297.

Seven Republicans are vying to replace U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, who is retiring at the end of this 11th term. The open seat, considered one of the most strongly Republican in the nation, brought a wide field of GOP hopefuls. The primary is June 3.

Orthopedic surgeon Chad Mathis reported $377,561 in contributions and loaned his campaign another $110,000.

Alabama Policy Institute founder Gary Palmer reported $404,995 in contributions.

The other three Republicans in the race reported raising less than $50,000.

Mattress company owner Tom Vigneulle reported $34,537 in contributions. He also loaned his campaign another $11,800.

State Sen. Scott Beason, who has gotten national attention for his Arizona-style immigration bill and other legislation, is so far not attracting the attention of deep-pocket donors.

Beason reported only $15,925 in contributions, plus a $3,480 loan. The Gardendale senator said at the start of the campaign that fundraising will be an issue for him. Beason lost to Bachus in the 2012 GOP primary.

The seventh candidate, retired lawyer Rob Shattuck, has said he is not soliciting donations.

The 6th District stretches from Blount County through Birmingham to the rural areas of Shelby and Chilton counties. It includes a mix of suburban and rural areas as well as some of the state’s wealthiest communities.

Former Alabama Republican Party Chairman Marty Connors, who ran against Bachus in 1992, said while DeMarco and Brooke, who works at Harbert Management Co., have raised the most campaign cash, there is no clear front-runner.

“They just left the gate,” Connors said.

Connors said some of the lesser-known candidates will have to spend money on advertising to introduce themselves to voters. Others have a head start because they are relatively well-known within the district, he said.

“A lot of these guys have been to every birthday party, bar mitzvah and funeral,” Connors said.

The primary winner will face Democrat Avery Vise in November.

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