Considering the recent fundraising history of challengers who have knocked off congressional incumbents in Palm Beach County, the latest Federal Election Commission reports do not bode well for the Republicans hoping to unseat freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter.
The four Republicans who opened campaigns in Murphy’s Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 in 2013 raised a combined $182,523 from contributors through Dec. 31 and added a combined $339,627 in personal finances, according to fresh FEC figures. That $522,150 GOP total is less than one-fifth of the $2.6 million that Murphy hauled in during 2013.
Most of the successful congressional challengers in the area over the last decade raised considerably more than the current GOP field in the year before an election.
At the end of 2011, Murphy had raised $1.4 million before going on to unseat Republican Rep. Allen West in 2012. West raised $1.1 million in 2009 before toppling Democratic Rep. Ron Klein in 2010. Back in 2007, three Republicans vying for the seat of Democratic Rep. Tim Mahoney raised a combined $1.3 million; Tom Rooney, who raised $529,380 from donors in 2007, went on to win the GOP primary and beat Mahoney in 2008. Klein raised $1.3 million in 2005 before defeating Republican Rep. Clay Shaw in 2006.
The lowest fundraising total for a successful congressional challenger in the year before an election was by Mahoney in 2005. He launched his campaign in October that year and raised $193,364 from contributors and threw in $78,400 of his own money by Dec. 31. Mahoney won the seat in 2006 after Republican Rep. Mark Foley resigned in an Internet sex scandal.
In this year’s District 18 race, incumbent Murphy began January with nearly $1.8 million in cash on hand.
Among Murphy’s potential Republican challengers, the leading money-raiser has been former state Rep. Carl Domino of Jupiter, who snagged $116,938 from contributors and dumped in another $279,527 of his own money. He began 2014 with $274,133 in cash on hand.
Juno Beach Councilwoman Ellen Andel raised $45,533 during 2013 and began 2014 with $5,573 in cash on hand. Andel was endorsed in November by West, but West’s prolific fundraising skills haven’t helped her. She raised only $13,075 during the last quarter of 2013.
Alan Schlesinger, a former legislator and mayor in Connecticut, has raised $19,652 from contributors and put $50,000 of personal funds into his campaign. Former Tequesta councilman Calvin Turnquest, who launched his campaign in October, raised only $400 and added $10,100 in personal money before the end of 2013.
After resigning from Congress in 2006, Foley never shut down his campaign account. The Friends of Mark Foley for Congress committee still has $1.3 million in cash on hand.
Foley says he has no plans to attempt a political comeback. But he doesn’t completely rule out the idea.
“I don’t preclude running again, but it’s not my expectation. … I’ve never shut the door. A day doesn’t go by that people don’t urge me to run for something,” Foley said.
Foley said he might eventually use the money in his campaign account for a charitable foundation.
The Allen West Guardian Fund, the PAC set up by West to help conservative candidates who are minorities or have military backgrounds, collected more than $2.8 million in 2013 and began 2014 with $1.1 million in cash on hand.
More than $2 million of the money raised by the PAC came from “unitemized” contributions — gifts of less than $200.
Much of the PAC’s spending has gone toward direct mail efforts to raise more money. The West PAC has also given $5,000 to Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton for his 2014 Senate bid and $5,000 apiece to the campaigns of Republican House challengers Mia Love in Utah and Dan Bongino in Maryland. The PAC also contributed $5,000 to the losing lieutenant governor bid of E.W. Jackson in Virginia.
Former President George W. Bush’s visit to Palm Beach this week will be at least his third trip to the island since leaving office in 2009. Bush will speak at a $600-a-plate Anti-Defamation League dinner Thursday at The Breakers. He visited Llwyd Ecclestone’s house in 2009 and the Flagler Museum in 2012 to raise money for his presidential library.