- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Two Democratic challengers finished among the leaders of the field in the early money chase for the 2014 midterm elections, according to new campaign fundraising totals from the Federal Election Commission.

While most challengers have trouble competing with the money-raising power of incumbents, Democrats Gwen Graham in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District and Andrew Romanoff in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District managed to do just that, pulling in more than their GOP rivals — without dipping into their personal bank accounts.

The daughter of former Florida Democratic Sen. Bob Graham, Ms. Graham finished 2013 with over $1 million cash on hand, according to her FEC filing, $209,563 more than incumbent Republican Steve Southerland. The majority of Ms. Graham’s campaign cash comes from big donor checks, with 10 percent flowing in from PACs, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Having served four terms in the Colorado state House of Representatives, Mr. Romanoff has more than $1.6 million cash on hand in his challenge to three-term incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman, in a race many expect to be one of the most fiercely contested this year. According to CRP data, only 1 percent of Mr. Romanoff’s campaign funding came from PACs with the majority coming from individuals donors. Mr. Romanoff ran for Senate in 2010 but lost in the Democratic primary.

The FEC numbers are closely scrutinized by political analysts as an early sign of which candidates are catching fire and which must play catch-up in the pre-race race to impress donors and political insiders. For a challenger, fundraising against an incumbent can be daunting, since members in office can use their influence to draw in donors from across the country and via national party organizations.

Viveca Novak, CRP spokeswoman, said that if a challenger can raise enough money to match or even outpace a candidate in office, especially without using their own personal fortune, it’s a sign that they are a strong candidate.

“It’s an indication that, at least at this point, they could put up a strong challenge,” she said. “If they can put together contributions within the limits of a broad range of people, especially in their home district, that’s a good sign for them.”

According to the FEC numbers released late last week, no Senate challenger is outraising a sitting senator seeking re-election. Among the most impressive challengers is GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy, who ended 2013 with $3.4 million in his campaign coffers in what is expected to be a strong challenge in Louisiana to Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, who raised a total of $5.7 million.

Other House hopefuls — including primary challengers — who report having more money in the bank (including self-donated funds) than the incumbent in the race include:

New York’s 1st District

Challenger: George Demos (R) $2,052,391

Incumbent: Rep. Timothy H. Bishop (D) $565,456

New York’s 19th District

Challenger: Sean Eldridge (D) $1,265,355

Incumbent: Rep. Christopher Gibson (R) $863,338

Illinois 10th District

Challenger: Robert Dold Jr. (R) $1,007,693

Incumbent: Bradley Schneider (D) $1,001,739

California 17th District (primary)

Challenger: Rohit Khanna (D) $1,974,501

Incumbent: Rep. Mike Honda (D) $622,989

Tennessee 4th District (primary)

Challenger: Jim Tracy (R) $844,688

Incumbent: Rep. Scott Desjarlais (R) $154,474

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