Fundraising is one of the most significant indicators of whether a political race will be competitive. That’s especially true when handicapping congressional races more than a year before Election Day.
At this time, based on fundraising, conventional political wisdom indicates that the two U.S. House seats to watch in Minnesota are the 3rd and the 6th districts.
The interesting thing is that the governor’s race is highly competitive — with candidates almost too numerous to track unless you use this handy MinnPost tool. But challengers to Minnesota’s incumbent House members have not emerged except in one district. (And that district, the 6th, could have up to three DFLers who want to take on incumbent Michele Bachmann.)
Still, as we look ahead to 2010, the House is where the money is stacking up. Here’s a district-by-district look at the fundraising so far:
Without an identified opponent yet, Rep. Tim Walz raised $179,000 in the second quarter, bringing his 2009 total to $348,000. The Democrat has $233,000 cash on hand. Now that Walz is no longer a freshman and has found his political bearings, he’s probably under less pressure to build a war chest for next year. That said, the GOP will eventually have a candidate on the ballot and Walz will pick up his fundraising when he needs to.
Like Walz, GOP Rep. John Kline doesn’t have an identified opponent. Kline raised $190,000 in the second quarter, bringing his 2009 total to $333,000. Kline’s move to the ranking minority member of the Education and Labor Committee will give him a more visible role in Washington and make him more attractive to donors on a national level. When he has a formidable opponent, his fundraising will also pick-up. Current cash on hand: $215,000.
There is a strong sense that this district will be competitive because national Democrats will see GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen’s seat as a potential pick-up. Paulsen’s fundraising reflects the pressure freshman feel in swing seats. He raised $356,000 in the second quarter, bringing his total for the year to $606,000. Paulsen will likely pick up the pace as potential challengers emerge. Cash on hand: $488,000.
Incumbent Rep. Betty McCollum has what most in Minnesota and Washington consider a safe seat. The Democrat’s position on the House Appropriations Committee gives her leverage if she needs it for fundraising. But she’s unlikely to face a significant challenge in 2010. She raised $67,000 in Q2, making her 2009 total $173,000. Cash on hand is $91,000.
Another “safe” incumbent, Rep. Keith Ellison has been earnest at working to build his profile. Not likely to have a competitive race in 2010, the Democrat’s district will be key for the DFL in the party’s effort to win the governor’s race. Ellison raised $152,000 in the second quarter and has raised $243,000 for the year. He has $121,000 in the bank.
The most politically volatile district in the state is shaping up to have a major battle on the DFL side for the opportunity to face Republican Bachmann. Bachmann knows that she will have a competitive race and is likely going to be targeted nationally by Democratic and GOP groups. She raised $285,000 in the second quarter, giving her $616,000 for the year. She has $389,000 cash on hand.
Upstart candidate Maureen Reed, who was the Independence Party nominee for lieutenant governor in 2006, entered the race this quarter and quickly raised an impressive $231,000. She has $219,000 cash on hand.
As of last night, the 2008 DFL nominee in this district, El Tinklenberg, had not filed a report. His first quarter report showed $183,000 in the bank. Tinklenberg is thought to be leaning toward running again, and has been visible at DFL political events.
(Update: Tinklenberg has since filed his report, which shows a lackluster $54,000 raised. He spent $55,000, giving him a net loss for the quarter. It is notable that be kept staff on payroll, including last year’s campaign manager, Anna Richey. He has also hired Dana Houle to manage next year’s race. Tinklenberg has $198,000 on hand.)
The new wild card for the DFL in this race is Tarryl Clark, the assistant state Senate majority leader from St. Cloud. Clark, who is expected to formally enter the race next week, will have to work hard to catch up to Reed and Tinklenberg in fundraising.
Rep. Collin Peterson has been at the center of the House debate over cap and trade and energy policy. The Democrat’s role as chair of the House Agriculture Committee provides him a national platform and gives Minnesota important influence in the House. Peterson raised $191,000 this quarter and has pulled in $304,000 for the year. He is expected to have an opponent, but most think that he’s a good bet for bet for re-election. He has $566,000 in the bank
Like Peterson, Rep. Jim Oberstar has a national profile. As chair of the House Transportation Committee, the Democrat has tremendous influence and access to the House leadership and numerous groups interested in helping him fundraise. Oberstar collected $238,000 in the second quarter, bringing is 2009 total to $435,000. His cash in the bank is $977,000.
Considering that it’s only July 2009, it is likely that challengers in all eight districts will emerge in the coming months. That said, fundraising in the coming months will likely show that two of the districts — the 3rd and 6th — will be the most competitive.