Lawmakers pick their favorites in member-vs.-member matchups

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are picking favorites this primary season as redistricting has created several member vs. member matchups.

Campaign finance records from five House races show that members of Congress contributed to one or both intra-party campaigns after congressional districts were finalized.

Some candidates raised more money from fellow members than others.

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Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) received the most, with at least $40,000 from fellow House Republicans in his bid to defeat Rep. Dan Manzullo (R-Ill.).

In California’s 30th district, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) earned at least $32,000 in contributions, mainly from fellow Golden State congressional Democrats, against opponent Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who had none, according to end-of-the-year financial filings.

Jack Pitney, professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College, said money may not be everything in a race, but it could mean the difference between a live candidacy and a dead one.

“Victory does not always go to the candidate with the biggest war chest, but all lawmakers want to raise more money than their opponents.  Nobody ever lost an election because he raised too much money. Plenty have lost because they raised too little.” 

Contributions to these races from other members came from individual campaign committees and leadership PACs after the congressional district lines within the state were finalized.

And, while a contribution doesn’t determine a winner, it does indicate who has the party’s support.

“Contributions from other members of Congress send a signal to voters about which candidate is viewed as more of a team player and valued colleague,” explained Alan Abramowitz, professor of political science at Emory University.

And as Republican strategist Ron Bonjean put it: In the end, politics is a “relationship based business.”

The following is a list of five intra-party House races and the lawmakers who contributed money after the congressional districts were finalized. The primary between Michigan Democratic Reps. Gary Peters and Hansen Clarke hasn’t had any contributions as of their end of the year financial reports, while other races have shaped up too recently for the available Federal Election Committee data, which runs through December 2011.


California 44th: Rep. Janice Hahn (D) vs. Rep. Laura Richardson (D)

Congressional redistricting finalized: August 15, 2011

Primary date: June 5, 2012

Democratic lawmakers who have contributed to either incumbent since redistricting:

Hahn: Rep. John Garamendi (Calif.)

Richardson: Reps. Marcia Fudge (Ohio), Elijah Cummings (Md.), James Clyburn (S.C.), Del. Donna Christensen (Virgin Islands)

The June 5 primary won’t be the first face-off between these female incumbents in the newly-drawn district representing southeast Los Angeles County. Thanks to California’s new top-two primary system, both Hahn and Richardson will have more time to woo congressional colleagues to their side.

Richardson, under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for alleged campaign violations, has struggled to rise in the polls in a district with a large Hispanic and African-American electorate. This is despite receiving financial contributions from two prominent House Democrats, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), and the endorsement of the Congressional Black Caucus. While Hahn has only received the financial and campaign endorsement of one House colleague, her prominent family name has gone a long way in shoring up endorsements from state and local officials.

“Hahn is a brand name in Southern California politics. Her father, Kenneth Hahn, was a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors from 1952 to 1992. Her brother, James Hahn, was mayor of Los Angeles from 2001 to 2005” said Jack Pitney, professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College.


Illinois 16th: Rep. Don Manzullo (R) vs. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R)

Congressional redistricting finalized: June 24, 2011

Primary date: March 20, 2012

Republican lawmakers who have contributed to either incumbent since redistricting:

Manzullo: Reps. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.),

Kinzinger: Reps. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Michael Conaway (R-Texas), Michael Burgess (R-Texas), John Sullivan (R-Okla.), John Boehner (R-Ohio), Eric Cantor (R-Va.) Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), Aaron Schock (R-Ill.)

This race is not just a political battle, but a generational one too, as Rep. Adam Kinzinger goes for a second term against veteran lawmaker Rep. Don Manzullo, a colleague nearly twice his age.

In a campaign that has degenerated into a cacophony of competing attack ads ahead of the March 20 primary, contributions to Kinzinger from top members of the Republican leadership show who the GOP’s power brokers want returning to Washington.

“Certainly Boehner's and McCarthy's contributions to Kinzinger over Manzullo signal to potential donors that the Republican leadership has taken sides in the race -- and so should they!" said Sarah Binder, professor of political science at George Washington University.


Louisiana 3rd: Rep. Jeff Landry (R) vs. Rep. Charles Boustany (R)

Congressional redistricting finalized: August 1, 2011

Primary date: November 6, 2012

Republican lawmakers who have contributed to either incumbent since redistricting:

Landry: Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio)

Boustany: Reps. John Boehner (R-Ohio), John Kline (R-Minn.)

Rep. Charles Boustany appears to be too mainstream for Louisiana’s Tea Party Republicans, as they endorsed Rep. Jeff Landry in Louisiana’s 3rd congressional district. “We have drafted Jeff because he will continue to represent the best interests of Louisiana, not the self-appointed ‘ruling class’ in Washington,” the Tea Party of Louisiana said in announcing its support.

Landry argues that Boustany’s support for the Troubled Asset Relief Program and his vote to raise the debt ceiling last August are decisions not to be forgiven. These indictments, however, did not stop Boustany from holding a 2-to-1 money advantage in the last quarter of 2011, according to FEC reports. One of those contributions was a $5,000 donation from House Speaker John Boehner's Freedom Project PAC, a sign Landry’s supporters say Boustany is too close to the Washington establishment. 


California 30th: Rep. Howard Berman (D) vs. Rep. Brad Sherman (D)

Congressional redistricting finalized: August 15, 2011

Primary date: June 5, 2012

Democratic lawmakers who have contributed to either incumbent since redistricting:

Berman: Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), James Moran (D-Va.), George Miller (D-Calif.) Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) Tom Carper (D-Del.)

Sherman: none

In what may become one of the more contentious, and expensive House races in the country, Democratic Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman are competing for their political lives in the newly drawn San Fernando Valley district.

Twenty-three members of the California House congressional delegation have thrown their support behind Berman; five of them have contributed money since the district lines were redrawn in August, five more than Sherman can claim.

When asked about the large number of congressional endorsements Berman has received, Sherman said he would have plenty of money for the race and emphasized he had much more local support.

"The Democratic Party of San Fernando Valley endorsed me overwhelmingly… Every elected official who lived in the 30th congressional district has endorsed me with the exception of [Berman's] former district director," he told The Hill. "I will have a well-financed campaign. I will spend more money, I have more money than anyone [in Congress], and if $6 million isn't enough then I shouldn't be here."


New Jersey 9th: Rep. Bill Pascrell (D) vs. Rep. Steve Rothman (D)

Congressional redistricting finalized: December 23, 2011

Primary date: June 5, 2012

Democratic lawmakers who have contributed to either incumbent since redistricting:

Pascrell: Reps. John Larson (D-Conn.), Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), Michael Capuano (D-Mass.)

Rothman: none

Political survival has trumped friendship in New Jersey’s redrawn 9th district, as Rep. Steve Rothman elected to challenge fellow Democrat Rep. Bill Pascrell rather than run in a district held by GOP Rep. Scott Garrett. Both Democrats came to Congress together in 1997 and are on the same side on most issues, but the matchup has stressed their friendship.    

In an interview with USA Today, Pascrell said "It is obviously a difficult situation when someone who calls you a friend decides to come over and run against you and still call you a friend. I find that difficult to believe. I'm in it to win it. He doesn't know what he's in for." Thus far, in the brief time since New Jersey’s new congressional lines were approved, Pascrell has received contributions from several Democrats, including House Democratic Caucus chairman, John Larson (D-Conn.)

— Cameron Joseph contributed