By Aaron Blake - 07/26/06 12:00 AM EDT
Three Republican House candidates from New York and special-election victor Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) were among the 10 recipients of fundraising aid at the fourth and final installment of the GOP’s Retain Our Majority Program (ROMP) last week.
The event Thursday, hosted by Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), unofficially raised $982,000, a Republican aide with knowledge of the fundraiser said.
Reps. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) and Sue Kelly (R-N.Y.) joined Ray Meier, who is running to keep the district of retiring Rep. Sherwood Boehlert in Republican hands, as the largest contingent of ROMP recipients from one state. The third ROMP fundraiser included three races in Ohio, where Republicans face serious election difficulties.
Democrats say a similar challenge is emerging for Republicans in New York.
“Upstate New York is incredibly competitive this election cycle,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg said. “Certainly, places that have always been competitive are competitive, but there are a lot vulnerable incumbents in upstate New York.”
Feinberg added that she was surprised National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) wasn’t also on the list, given his rematch with Democrat Jack Davis, who took 44 percent of the vote against him in 2004.
The final ROMP fundraiser is used for candidates in the most desperate need of campaign money. Three of the recipients trail their challengers in terms of cash on hand. Most of those who are ahead in funds have only modest leads.
The ROMP list included five incumbents, four open-seat candidates and one challenger. The other beneficiaries were Minnesota open-seat candidate Michele Bachmann; Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.); Jeff Lamberti, who is challenging Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa); Idaho open-seat candidate Bill Sali; Rep. Don Sherwood (R-Pa.); and Iowa open-seat candidate Mike Whalen.
Kelly holds by far the biggest cash-on-hand edge and has the most money among the 10, with more than $1.2 million, while none of her potential challengers has more than $350,000.
Sweeney has slightly more than $1 million, while Democratic challenger Kirsten Gillibrand has more than $750,000. Meier has $434,000, about $90,000 more than likely Democratic opponent Michael Arcuri.
Bilbray defeated Democrat Francine Busby by four percentage points in a special election in California’s 50th District in June, and the two will meet again in November.
The NRCC spent $5 million to keep the seat, which had belonged to disgraced Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R). Busby outspent Bilbray and has an early lead on him in cash on hand for the general election, showing $190,000 to Bilbray’s $130,000 through the second quarter.
Hayworth faces his first tough reelection campaign in years, against former Tempe Mayor Harry Mitchell.
Sali is competing for the seat being vacated by gubernatorial candidate Rep. Butch Otter (R-Idaho), which is normally a very safe Republican district; President Bush won it 69-30 in 2004. But Sali survived a heated primary with just 26 percent of the vote, and there have been rumors of Republican supporters defecting to Democratic candidate Larry Grant.
“This is a clear nod that those incumbents are in the fight of their political lives,” Feinberg said, referring to Hayworth and Sherwood.
Sherwood stumbled through his primary with 56 percent of the vote after it was revealed that he had settled a multimillion-dollar assault-and-battery lawsuit with a former mistress. The DCCC announced recently that it was adding Sherwood’s opponent, Democrat Chris Carney, to its Red to Blue program, which aids candidates trying to unseat Republican incumbents.
Bachmann’s Democratic opponent, children’s advocate Patty Wetterling, was also recently added to the Red to Blue program. The two are running for the open seat left by senatorial candidate Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-Minn.). Bachmann faced a tough primary and trails in cash on hand by nearly $200,000.
Lamberti is the only candidate of the 10 who is trying to add to the Republicans’ majority. The Boswell seat has emerged as one of Republicans’ best pickup opportunities this year.
Lamberti’s fellow Iowa Republican, Mike Whalen, will face Democratic nominee Bruce Braley for the seat of Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa), who decided to run for governor rather than reelection. Both congressional candidates spent heavily on three-way primaries, and Whalen leads Braley in cash on hand, $215,000-$130,000.
ROMP was created by former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and is run by the Republican leadership. DeLay hosted the first fundraiser of the cycle last year, Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) ran the second, and Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) ran the third in March.
The first and second ROMP events were for the most endangered Republican incumbents, while the third was intended to allow candidates to go on offense. ROMP has several offshoots, including one for freshmen (FROMP) and for challengers (CHOMP).
The DCCC has developed a similar program called Frontline, which benefits 10 vulnerable incumbents throughout the cycle. The Democrats’ list, however, does not change and is a continuous effort, as opposed to four individual fundraisers.
The DCCC outraised the NRCC, which does not run ROMP, $9.8 million to $9.5 million in June.