House challengers build war chests for 2018

House challengers build war chests for 2018
© Getty Images

House candidates across the country are raking in cash ahead of the pivotal 2018 midterm elections, with Democrats looking to make a play for the House majority.

While incumbents sport a heavy fundraising advantage over their challengers, a handful of challengers, mostly Democrats, are finding early fundraising success, according to new Federal Election Commission filings. Others have already loaned their campaigns sizable resources to fill their coffers.

Here are the five candidates who raised the most from donors during the third fundraising quarter, as well as the top five highest self-funders, excluding incumbents:

Top five fundraising challengers

Democrat Randy Bryce (Wis.-01), challenging Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThree House Dems say they'll oppose immigration floor vote over possible wall funding Dems after briefing: 'No evidence' spy placed in Trump campaign Senate approves new sexual harassment policy for Congress MORE (R)

Bryce, an ironworker and labor activist nicknamed the “Iron Stache” for his facial hair, has drawn national buzz and media appearances for his bid to unseat Ryan. That excitement appears to be translating into major cash for the Wisconsin Democrat.

ADVERTISEMENT
Bryce raised more than $1 million in the third quarter and now has about the same amount in cash on hand.

Bryce, who supported Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersTrump: ‘Clapper has now admitted there was spying on my campaign’ Overnight Defense: Trump decision on Korea summit coming 'next week' | China disinvited from major naval exercise | Senate sends VA reform bill to Trump Senate sends major VA reform bill to Trump's desk MORE (I-Vt.) in the 2016 presidential primary, hopes to capitalize on frustration in both parties with Ryan. He’s also backed by a handful of liberal groups, including Democracy for America. But unseating a House speaker is rare. Complicating Bryce’s bid, Ryan, like past House speakers, is a prolific fundraiser.

Cathy Myers, a local school board representative also running in the Democratic primary, has only $20,000 cash on hand.

Democrat Amy McGrath (Ky.-06), challenging Rep. Andy BarrGarland (Andy) Hale BarrPrimary victories fuel new 'Year of the Woman' for Dems The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Republicans see some daylight in midterm polling Former Marine pilot wins Dem primary for competitive Kentucky House race MORE (R)

McGrath, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, exploded onto the political scene this summer with a viral announcement video.

The announcement, which has more than 1.4 million views on YouTube, tells the story of McGrath’s journey to become a fighter pilot in the face of sexism toward women in the military.

McGrath parlayed that success into a huge fundraising haul of more than $770,000. A majority of that money came from small donors — she raised more than $400,000 in donations of under $200.

McGrath is the heavy favorite in her primary against state Sen. Reggie Thomas, thanks in no small part to the major fundraising advantage.

Like Bryce, McGrath has a tough hill to climb in her district, which is rated “Likely Republican” by Cook Political Report.

McGrath is running to unseat Barr, who won reelection in November by 22 points. While Barr raised just $300,000 last cycle, he has more than twice McGrath’s cash on hand — $1.3 million, compared to McGrath’s roughly $550,000.

Democrat Dan Koh (Mass.-03), for the seat vacated by Rep. Niki Tsongas (D)

The seat vacated by Tsongas will likely attract a host of candidates, and Koh is making a big splash with his substantial fundraising haul.

The former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Martin Walsh raised more than $755,000 — in addition to a $50,000 loan — in his first month running for office. He has more than $770,000 in the bank.

The 32-year-old is a rising star in the party who moved back to the district after leaving Boston’s administration. Some other names in the mix are several state senators and a former aide to Marty Meehan, who served in that district from 1993 to 2007 when Tsongas won the seat in a special election.

While Tsongas’s district is considered safe for Democrats, the vacancy will likely draw candidates from both parties. But Koh’s campaign staff and fundraising could scare off potential candidates weighing their own bids.

Republican Dino Rossi (Wash.-08), for the seat vacated by Rep. Dave ReichertDavid (Dave) George ReichertGOP lawmakers back discharge petition to force immigration votes Major GOP super PAC expands field offices to 31 districts With bills on the table, Congress must heed the call to fix our national parks MORE (R)

Rossi stormed out of the gate last month, raising more than $575,000 over a nine-day span to end the third quarter. The Republican has made a handful of high-profile bids in Washington state, narrowly missing out on the governor’s mansion and losing his 2010 Senate bid.

After serving as a state senator, Rossi is again eying higher office. He now has $567,000 in cash on hand for his bid to replace Reichert, the Washington Republican who is retiring after this term.

Rossi has a significant fundraising advantage over the Democratic field so far — something he’ll need in a district that is drifting to the left.

Republican Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio-16), for the seat vacated by Rep. Jim Renacci (R)

Gonzalez is a household name in Ohio, thanks to his standout football career at The Ohio State University. He’s running to fill the open seat vacated by Rep. Jim Renacci, who’s leaving the seat to run for governor.

Gonzalez has raked in a healthy fundraising total of about $527,000 during his first quarter as an official candidate, thanks in part to donations by teammates like former NFL MVP Peyton Manning and Ohio State football star A.J. Hawk.

On top of that haul from individual donors, Gonzalez also loaned the campaign $100,000, giving him $612,000 banked away for his bid.

Gonzalez is running in a safe-Republican district, so the winner of the GOP primary will have a major leg-up in the general election. His top competition is Tom Patton, a longtime Ohio state lawmaker.

Top five self-funders by cash on hand

Democrat Andy Thorburn (Calif.-39), challenging Rep. Ed Royce (R)

The Democratic field to take on Royce has swelled to more than half a dozen candidates, all competing for a seat that is on the top of House Democrats’ wish list. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonComey: Trump's 'Spygate' claims are made up Clapper: Trump distorting my comments is Orwellian Mueller probing Roger Stone's finances: report MORE carried Royce’s Ocean County-area seat by nearly 9 points in 2016.

Some candidates running in the Democratic primary are pumping in millions of dollars of their own money in hopes of distinguishing themselves from a crowded field.

Thorburn, a businessman and former public school teacher, is by far the leader of the pack. He raised a total of $2,142,477 million, which is mostly from his $2 million personal loan. He’s just shy of $2 million cash on hand.

Thorburn is a political newcomer, but his willingness to self-fund puts him on the map as a potentially formidable contender. When launching his campaign, he released a digital ad recounting the time he spent 30 days in jail for participating in a teachers’ strike for better wages in 1970.

But he’ll still need to overcome what will likely be a tough primary. The field includes former chemistry professor Phil Janowicz, pediatrician and EMILY’s List candidate Mai Khanh Tran, former Obama official Sam Jammal and Navy veteran Gil Cisneros.

Still, whoever faces Royce in the general election will have a tough challenge, even as California voters move further left. Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has been in Congress since 1993. He has raised more than $700,000 and has nearly $3.5 million in the bank.

Democrat Tim Gomes (N.Y.-02), challenging Rep. Pete King (R)

Challenging King won’t be easy for Democrats, but Gomes’s haul could make the district a more enticing play for the national party establishment.

Gomes, a business owner, is the first Democrat who declared to take on King. He raised nearly $40,000 and also gave himself a personal loan of $1 million, ending the quarter with about $1 million on hand.

But Gomes also brings some baggage into the race. He’s switched party affiliations several times, registering as a Democrat following Trump’s election last year.

Since entering Congress after a close election in 1992, King has won reelection to his seat by double-digit margins. King hasn’t faced a tough challenge in recent elections, and he has a $2.7 million campaign fund that’ll help him compete.

Van Taylor (Texas-03), running for Rep. Sam JohnsonSamuel (Sam) Robert JohnsonMay brings key primaries across nation Loss of Ryan hits hard for House Republicans Watchdog: Social Security acting head hasn't been authorized to serve for months MORE’s open seat

Taylor is building his strong GOP primary campaign account through both individual donors as well as personal loans.

He raised more than $500,000 from donors during the third quarter, as well as a $500,000 line of credit from himself.

An Iraq War veteran, Taylor joined the Texas state House in 2010 before leading a successful bid for state Senate in 2014. He’s the clear favorite to replace retiring Rep. Sam Johnson (R), who has held the Dallas-area seat since 1991. His more than $900,000 cash on hand blows his opponents away, and he has the backing of the conservative Club for Growth.

Democrat David Trone (Md.-06), for the seat vacated by Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyWashington governor to make Iowa debut Five rulings to watch at the Supreme Court Dem House candidate promises to curb 'mansplaining' if elected MORE (D)

Trone is no stranger to self-funding. The multimillionaire co-owner of Total Wine & More ran for Congress in 2016 and dumped more than $13 million of his own money into a failed bid to replace then-Rep. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenSenate Dems’ campaign chief ‘welcomes’ midterm support from Clintons The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — GOP centrists in striking distance of immigration vote Overnight Finance: House sends Dodd-Frank rollbacks to Trump | What's in the bill | Trump says there is 'no deal' to help ZTE | Panel approves bill to toughen foreign investment reviews MORE (D-Md.)

Now he’s back again, this time running for the seat vacated by Delaney, who is retiring to run for president in 2020.

Trone’s raised just $41,000 between his August launch and the end of September, but augmented that sum with almost $750,000 of his own money. But he ended last month with less than $57,000 in the bank, as federal disclosure forms show he spent almost all of his personal donation already, largely on consultants.

Aruna Miller, a Maryland state delegate backed by EMILY’s List, has the most cash-on-hand, with $525,176. And physician and author Nadia Hashimi has $281,000 in the bank after loaning her campaign $225,000.

Democrat Gil Cisneros (Calif.-39), challenging Rep. Ed Royce (R)

Thorburn isn’t the only candidate throwing substantial sums of his own money at a challenge to Royce next year.

Cisneros and his wife won a $266 million lottery haul in 2010, putting some of the money into a foundation to boost education opportunities for Hispanic students. Now Cisneros is spending his money on his political ambitions.

The former Navy officer raised more than $732,000, including a $561,000 personal loan. He has around $486,000 cash on hand.

Cisneros switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in 2008. And Cisneros faces another political attack: he currently doesn’t live in the district, but said he plans to move there soon.

Cisneros is backed by VoteVets, a progressive veterans group, an endorsement that can give him some momentum in a crowded primary.