Well-funded candidates battle for Senate
By Robert Yoon
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Candidates nationwide have amassed sizable war chests in the battle to control the U.S. Senate, despite fund-raising delays following the September 11 terrorist attacks, according to reports filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.
Democrats have a one-seat majority in the Senate, meaning each seat is a must-win for either party to control the chamber next year.
Thirty-four seats are open this year. The most competitive contests are expected in Arkansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire and South Dakota -- all states where vulnerable incumbents face well-known and well-funded challengers. In each race, the challenger raised at least $1 million last year, with the incumbent managing to maintain a financial edge.
Republican Sen. Tim Hutchinson raised more than $2 million last year, and had over $1.7 million in the bank by the end of the filing period on December 31. On the Democratic side, state Attorney General Mark Pryor, the son of former U.S. Sen. David Pryor, raised $1.1 million last year and banked just over $791,000.
Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone, a top target for Republicans this year, has raised more than $4 million and has $2.1 million in the bank for his race against former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman. A Republican, Coleman raised $2.2 million last year and has $1.4 million in the bank.
Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan raised $4.4 million and banked $2.8 million in her bid to complete the term of her late husband Mel Carnahan, who was killed in a plane crash less than a month before the November 2000 general election. Carnahan officially announced her candidacy earlier this month, but began fund-raising last March. Her likely opponent: former U.S. Rep. Jim Talent, who raised $1.8 million since August and has $1.3 million cash available.
Republican Sen. Bob Smith faces a strong primary challenge from Republican Rep. John Sununu, and the winner of that race is expected to face Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.
Democrats have called Smith the most vulnerable Republican senator, but he still starts the year with more cash on hand than either of his opponents. Smith raised roughly $800,000 since last July and has $1.4 million in the bank. Sununu, son and namesake of the former governor and former White House chief of staff, raised over $820,000 last year, with roughly $254,000 raised since July. He has over $711,000 in the bank. On the Democratic side, Shaheen raised $1.1 million since July and has nearly $930,000 in the bank.
Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson raised $2.1 million last year and has roughly $1.7 million in the bank. His Republican opponent is Rep. John Thune, who raised $1 million last year -- most of it since October.
Thune -- the state's sole U.S. representative -- began the year with $1 million in available cash. Among those who will be closely following this race are South Dakota's Democratic senior Sen. Tom Daschle, the Senate Majority Leader, and President Bush, who urged Thune to abandon his planned gubernatorial bid to help Republicans regain control of the Senate.
Candidates in other competitive races have also been busy.
Elizabeth Dole is the leading Republican in the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Jesse Helms. Dole raised just over $3 million last year and began the year with $2.5 million in the bank. Former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles leads the Democratic field, with $1.7 million raised since October and $1.5 million in the bank.
Republican Sen. Wayne Allard has raised $2.2 million and has $1.7 million in the bank. The leading Democrat is Tom Strickland, a U.S. attorney who lost to Allard in 1996. Strickland raised $1.3 million last year for a rematch with Allard, and has roughly $878,000 in the bank.
Democratic Sen. Max Cleland raised a formidable $5.4 million in 2001 and started the year with more than $3 million in available cash. The leading Republican challenger is Rep. Saxby Chambliss, who raised $1.5 million last year and banked $1.1 million.
Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin raised more than $4.3 million last year, $1.4 million of which was raised since July. Harkin began the election year with $2.2 million in cash. His likely Republican opponent is Rep. Greg Ganske, who raised almost $1.4 million last year. Of this amount, roughly $551,000 was raised from July through December of 2001. Ganske has nearly $1.2 million in the bank.
Republican Rep. Lindsey Graham and Democrat Alex Sanders will likely face off in the race to succeed Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond, the Senate's longest-serving member. Both Graham and Sanders raised roughly $1.1 million from July through December, but Graham raised $3 million last year, giving him a cash advantage of $2 million.
Another senator who raised a sizeable amount for a re-election bid this year is Democrat John Kerry. Kerry has raised more than $4 million for his campaign, though no major party candidates have indicated they will challenge him. Federal law does allow him to use this money for other federal races, including a possible future presidential bid.
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