Vulnerable House incumbents build up war chests

Vulnerable House incumbents build up war chests
© Getty Images

Vulnerable House incumbents in some of the nation’s top battleground districts are stockpiling cash to insulate themselves early from prospective challengers.

A flurry of Democratic challengers are emerging in competitive districts in the hopes of riding a potential wave that would sweep Republicans out of the House majority. But Republicans have their fair share of opportunities to go on the offensive as well in conservative-leaning districts held by Democrats.

With the third-quarter fundraising reports in the books, here are the top vulnerable incumbents with the best fundraising totals so far. The Hill used The Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter Score to determine the tightest congressional districts.

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.)

McSally set the fundraising pace for vulnerable incumbents, raising $2.7 million so far this year. After spending $1.6 million, she has a little less than $1.5 million in her bank account for what is shaping up to be a heavyweight clash next year.

Those resources will be helpful as McSally looks likely to face off against a top challenger in 2018. Former Rep. Ann KirkpatrickAnn KirkpatrickKey primaries in August will help shape midterms Latina Leaders to Watch 2018 Gold Star father attacked by Trump steps up role in Dem primaries MORE, the Arizona Democrat who gave up her seat for an unsuccessful 2016 bid against Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain15 senators miss votes despite McConnell's criticism of absentees What crime did Manafort allegedly commit? Primary challenge to Trump? It could help him in 2020 MORE (R-Ariz.), is targeting McSally, a two-term representative. 

Kirkpatrick is a stronger fundraiser than an average challenger thanks to her own political career. But her bank account sits far behind McSally’s at this point — she has about $269,000 in the bank after raising $338,000 so far.

McSally won her district by a healthy 14-point margin in 2016, but Trump lost her district by 5 points last year. Democrats believe the former congresswoman can make a serious play for the seat, but McSally is no stranger to tough races, winning by just a few hundred votes in 2014 after a narrow loss in 2012.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.)

One of the two Democrats in the top seven most vulnerable seats, Gottheimer represents a district Trump won by 1 percentage point in 2016. But Gottheimer, once a speechwriter for former President Clinton, has a history of strong fundraising, and was one of only six Democrats who defeated a Republican incumbent in 2016.

Gottheimer has raised more than $2.2 million so far this year while spending just $306,000, which gives him about $2 million saved up in his campaign account.

Former Bogota, N.J. mayor Steve Lonegan is expected to face Gottheimer in the general election. A familiar face in Republican circles, Lonegan has run for a variety of seats in both state and federal office, including bids for the Senate and House in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Lonegan has already loaned his campaign more than $500,000, which could help boost his bid.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.)

Roskam has had a tight hold on his moderate district ever since he narrowly edged out future Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthNew Zealand minister rides bike to hospital to give birth Dem strategist: It's 'far-left thinking' to call for Nielsen's resignation Top Senate Dem calls on DHS secretary to resign over family separations MORE (D-Ill.) for the seat in 2006. He’s won by double-digit margins ever since.

But Democrats are coming out in droves to challenge Roskam in a district that Trump lost by 7 points in November, so Roskam is stockpiling cash. He’s raised $1.9 million so far this year and spent $685,000, good for $1.4 million in cash on hand.

Five of the nine Democrats running in the crowded primary have raised more than $100,000 so far this year, with Kelly Mazesk leading the pack with $421,000 raised so far and $343,000 in the bank.

Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloCatholic advocacy group to protest Trump tax law at Mar-a-Lago Cook Political Report moves 4 GOP seats to 'toss-up' category GOP lawmaker: Every white suburban district in the country will be a swing district this year MORE (R-Fla.)

Curbelo has been a target for Democrats ever since he toppled incumbent Democratic Rep. Joe GarciaJose (Joe) Antonio GarciaMueller indictments: Congressional candidate asked Russian operatives for info on opponent Curbelo Dem rival lashes out over immigration failure Hispanic Caucus to invite Republicans to join MORE in 2014. He easily defeated Garcia in 2016, while Trump lost the district by 16 points. But the seat represents one of the most liberal districts held by a Republican, giving Democrats hope they can bounce Curbelo next year.

That’s why Curbelo wants to flex his fundraising muscles early. He raised almost $1.8 million through three-quarters of 2017, giving him almost $1.4 million stocked away in the bank.

His top Democratic challenger is Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who ran a strong race for a state senate seat in 2016. She closed September with $162,000 in the bank after announcing her campaign in August.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine)

Another regular target for Democrats, Poliquin won his seat in 2014 and is expecting another tough challenge in 2018. He’s raised $1.7 million so far and spent $200,000, giving him about $1.5 million in the bank.

He won’t face his two-time political nemesis, Emily Cain, who ran against Poliquin in each of the past two cycles but is now the executive director of EMILY’s List. Without Cain in the mix, the Democratic field is wide open. Jared Golden, a top Democrat in the state House, leads the early fundraising pack.

Rep. Charlie CristCharles (Charlie) Joseph CristThe Hill's Morning Report: As Trump talks, his lawyers sweat Inviting disaster: Ignoring the lessons learned from Deepwater Horizon Former Florida congressmen mull bipartisan gubernatorial run: report MORE (D-Fla.)

Crist has a formidable fundraising network thanks to his stint as governor, as well as his 2012 bid for Senate, which has helped him boost his campaign coffers in Congress. The former governor has raised almost $1.7 million this year and has $1.4 million tucked away for his bid.

His district that engulfs much of the St. Petersburg area and the surrounding beaches is a swing district — Crist beat incumbent Republican Rep. David Jolly by just 4 points in 2016. But so far, Crist has no official challengers.

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.)

The chairman of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee will need deep pockets in 2018 — two of his top Democratic challengers are lending serious cash to their own campaigns.

Democrat Andy Thorburn, a businessman and former teacher, gave his campaign $2 million of his own money, former Navy officer and lottery winner Gil Cisneros loaned his campaign more than $500,000, and physician Mai-Khanh Tran loaned her campaign $200,000.

But Royce will be able to keep raking in cash while the crowded field of Democrats spend their money. He’s pulled in almost $1.7 million so far this year. And while he’s spent more than $1 million, he still has almost $3.5 million banked away.