WASHINGTON — Year-end money reports on the U.S. House races with the greatest chance of being competitive in Minnesota suggest that this may be the year of the incumbent.
Challengers across the state seem to be having a hard time raising cash.
In the north suburban Sixth District, where Democrats are pinning hopes of gaining another seat, freshman Republican Michele Bachmann raised over $300,000 in the last three months of 2007, more than any other incumbent House member from Minnesota. She now has $795,653 in cash on hand to defend her seat.
Democratic challenger and former state transportation commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg took in over $133,000 over the same period, bringing him to $96,000 in cash on hand.
Democratic rival Bob Olson, a tax attorney and banker, brought in just a little more than $26,000 in the last quarter, but it gave him $92,000 in the bank, not far behind the much better-known Tinklenberg.
Although the national Democratic effort to oust Bachmann has already attracted spending by independent left-leaning groups who dislike her social conservatism, the two Democratic candidates vying to run against her still have a ways to go to compete financially.
In southern MinnesotaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s First District, which Republicans are hoping to make competitive, Democratic freshman Tim Walz raised $249,000 in the last quarter, giving him over $750,000 cash on hand.
WalzÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fundraising prowess, though lagging behind Bachmann, still dwarfs that of the three Republicans vying to take him on.
State Sen. Dick Day of Owatonna raised nearly $53,000 in the last quarter, bringing him to nearly $96,000 in the bank. But his war chest – the biggest of the three challengers – includes a $23,000 loan he made to his own campaign last year. He also put in $7,000 of his own money.
Brian Davis, a Mayo Clinic doctor, took in nearly $60,000 in contributions over the same period, leaving him with $85,000 at yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s end. But he also had to self-finance to the tune of $46,000.
State Rep. Randy Demmer of Hayfield reported nearly $35,000 in total contributions over the last three months. Overall, Demmer has raised more than $70,000 for his campaign, but has spent more than twice that. He ended the year with about $42,000 in cash on hand – but only after making loans to his campaign totaling $135,000.
In the Second District race south of the Twin Cities, Republican Rep. John Kline reported fourth quarter contributions of over $170,000, bringing him to $395,000 in cash on hand. By comparison, his latest Democratic challenger, Iraq war veteran Steve Sarvi, reported only $43,000 in contributions, not counting a 10,000 loan from himself.
This does not bode well for Democrats, who would like to think they have a chance in a traditionally Republican district that went to Democrat Amy Klobuchar in last yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Senate race.
But Sarvi, so far, is not keeping up with the last Democratic effort to unseat Kline. At this stage in the race in 2006, DFL hopeful Coleen Rowley had more than $84,000 in campaign cash, more than twice SarviÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s bank balance. She went on to lose handily to Kline.