Democrat Staci Appel raised $260,000 in the fourth quarter for retiring Rep. Tom LathamThomas (Tom) Paul LathamLawmakers pay tribute to Rep. Latham Gun control group targets Grassley staffer running for House seat Ex-Grassley aide crushes competition MORE's (R-Iowa) seat, giving her a boost against potential challengers of both parties for the swing seat.

Appel, a former one-term state senator, has raised more than $500,000 for the year, her campaign told the Des Moines Register. She didn't say how much money she has in the bank.

The race for Latham's seat is a top priority for both parties. President Obama narrowly won the district in 2008 and 2012, but Latham handily beat fellow Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) in the redrawn district in 2012. His retirement has created a top-tier opportunity for Democrats.


Appel might face a primary challenge — a few Democrats, including Iowa state Sen. Matt McCoy, are considering running — but the strong fundraising quarter might help dissuade other candidates. The GOP field is likely to be crowded: Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R) and former senior Capitol Hill staffer David Young (R) are already in the race, and more than a half-dozen other Republicans are seriously considering bids for the seat.

Republicans are worried a packed primary could hurt their candidates' fundraising and mean no candidate reaches 35 percent of the vote, automatically leading to a convention that could risk nominating a hard-right candidate.