In New York’s 26th District, Reynolds spent the first three months of the year raising more than $313,000, compared with $220,100 in the same period in 2003, according to his Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports. At this rate, the congressman will raise more in 2005-2006 than he did in the last cycle, $2.5 million versus $2.36 million.
In Virginia’s 11th District, meanwhile, Davis, NRCC chairman from 1999 to 2003, more than doubled his first-quarter intake from 2003 to 2005, raising $283,000 this year compared to $121,000 two years ago, according to the FEC. With almost twice as much cash on hand this cycle as he had last time, Davis is on track to bring in $2.5 million by the end of 2006 versus $2.2 million for 2003-2004.
While Reynolds and Davis’s leadership roles give them access to the highest levels of government — and donors, interest groups and grassroots activists nationwide — they also are more open to Democratic attacks, former NRCC Chairman Bill Paxon said.
“There’s no question that being chairman of the campaign committee raises the target level for anyone who serves in that role,” said Paxon, who ran the NRCC from 1993 to 1997.
“The political opposition will always … attempt to focus on that member and cause them to spend more time in their district and focus on their individual races,” Paxon continued. “It’s a given that that’s going to happen.”
NRCC spokesman Carl Forti dismissed suggestions by Democrats that Reynolds or Davis is vulnerable, saying that neither is eligible for extra campaign cash for Republicans in tight House races. “They wouldn’t even be considered to be in that,” Forti said, referring to the Retain Our Majority Program (ROMP).
What’s more, the new chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), has made open seats a priority this cycle, focusing on races in Colorado, Illinois and Minnesota, among other states, meaning Democrats are unlikely, for now, to pour resources into either district. (A Democratic source called that “wishful thinking.”)
But the fact remains that the fourth-term Reynolds dropped to 56 percent in 2004 from 74 percent in 2002, while the sixth-term Davis won with 60 percentage points in 2004 compared to his 83-point win two years earlier.
“Certainly, we would like to get him back to where he was before,” Henry Wojtaszek, chairman of the Niagara County Republican Committee, said of Reynolds. Niagara County is in Reynolds’s district, in western New York.
Wojtaszek, like Mike Brady, Reynolds’s chief of staff, noted that Reynolds’s 2004 race was only his second since redistricting and that, last time around, he faced a wealthy Democratic rival who, Brady said, spent more than $1 million of his own money.
“In this business, you’ve got to practice peace through strength,” Brady said. He added that the congressman runs a full-time fundraising operation and that he would reel in “as much as it takes” to win in 2006.
A representative from the Davis campaign did not respond to requests for information.
So far, the Democratic source said, the only two Democrats to emerge as potential rivals to Reynolds and Davis in 2006 are those who ran against them in 2004 — businessman Jack Davis in New York and schoolteacher and diplomat Ken Longmyer in Virginia.
Emilie Miller, chairwoman of the 11th Congressional District Democratic Committee in Virginia and a former state senator, said that besides Longmyer, attorney Andy Hurst of Mount Vernon had voiced interest in challenging Davis in light of what Democrats called Davis’s flagging support.
DCCC spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg said it is still early in the cycle, promising that “we will have strong candidates in both districts.”
Paxon, who once represented the same swatch of New York now represented by Reynolds, said that in a presidential year in New York, where Republicans spent essentially zero on the presidential and Senate races, the vote skews against the GOP.
Paxon added that there had been disarray at the DCCC in the past few election cycles and that the NRCC had run more effective campaigns. Republicans have privately acknowledged that they are worried about Emanuel at the helm of the DCCC.
Many Republicans, including House members and Capitol Hill aides, consider the Illinois Democrat a fierce campaigner who prevailed in a tough primary of his own in 2002 before going on to win his first term in the House. The former aide to President Clinton also enjoys being associated with the most victorious Democrat in recent decades.