If congressmen Phil Gingrey, Jack Kingston and Tom Price all end up running for Saxby Chambliss’ U.S. Senate seat next year, you can be sure of one thing: they won’t have to worry about a lack of money.
While we are still about a year away from qualifying for the 2014 primary elections, each of those U.S. House members is already sitting on a pile of campaign cash that is close to or exceeds the $2 million level.
Campaign disclosure reports show that Kingston, a Savannah Republican, raised more than $843,000 from individuals and political action committees during the first quarter of 2013 and now has a cash balance of $1.75 million.
That’s an impressive amount, to be sure, but Kingston only qualifies for third place among his colleagues when it comes to dialing for dollars.
Price raised more than $541,000 during the first quarter and had $2.07 million in cash that he could use in a Senate race. Gingrey did even better: he pulled in more than $666,000 during the first quarter and now has the eye-popping total of $2.4 million to spend in his effort to replace Chambliss.
With another year to ask their deep-pocketed supporters for additional contributions, there is no telling how much money Kingston, Gingrey and Price would be able to raise. By the time this race is over, they’ll have spent so much cash that they’ll probably revive Georgia’s stagnant economy all by themselves.
There is no question that Gingrey and Kingston are committed to the Senate race. The unknown factor is Price, who has said he will announce at some point in May whether he will enter the Republican Senate primary or not.
The fourth Republican House member in the Senate race, Paul Broun of Athens, would have to be classified as the non-moneybags candidate in this race
Broun, who was the first person to actually announce his candidacy, reported contributions of about $209,000 during the most recent reporting period. He had just $217,136 in his bank account as of March 31.
Broun supporters should not worry about that – he has a history of running campaigns on a shoestring.
Broun went heavily into debt when he won his first House race in 2007. In 2008, while running for a full House term, he burned through his congressional staff budget by spending most of it to print and send literature to potential voters prior to the election. He still won that race going away. A lack of money has never been a major problem for Broun.
Karen Handel, the former secretary of state and an unsuccessful candidate for governor three years ago, could complicate the Republican primary even more.
If Price decides not to run for the Senate, you can look for Handel to become a challenger to Broun, Kingston and Gingrey. If Price does run for the Senate, Handel could easily switch lanes and run for Price’s 6th Congressional District seat.
There will be a Democratic candidate in the Senate race as well, but that person’s identity has yet to be determined.
U.S. Rep. John Barrow of the 12th Congressional District, who’s claimed three different residences in the past decade as Republicans kept redrawing his district boundaries, doesn’t have a lot of money like the GOP frontrunners. He had to spend everything he had to defeat a Republican opponent and hang on to his House seat last year.
Barrow has always been an effective fundraiser, however, and he was already bouncing back in the first quarter, raising a respectable total of $416,000. He will be able to raise much more if he decides to enter the Senate race.
Another possible Democratic contender is Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former senator Sam Nunn. If Nunn gets into the Democratic primary, her well-connected father could help her raise some significant money. Barrow would probably bow out at that point and run for the House again.
There are many strategy sessions to be held and a lot of decisions to be made before we know what the final field will be for the Senate race.
The one thing we do know is there will be boxcars full of money spent on this race – more than has probably ever been seen in a Georgia election.
(Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report, an Internet news service at gareport.com.)