Schumer Blazes Senate Fund-Raising Trail

New York Sen. Charles Schumer has amassed nearly $15 million in campaign funds for an election that is still a year and a half away, according to campaign finance reports released Tuesday.

While the most recent financial reports were still coming in from Senate offices, Democratic Party sources said Schumer's total is more than any senator seeking re-election in 2004.

Papers filed with the Federal Election Commission show Schumer, a Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, raised $14.8 million, including $1.36 million in the first quarter that began Jan. 1 and ended March 31.

In the period ending Dec. 31, Schumer's $13.6 million was roughly double the second-highest total, about $6.5 million raised by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.

"Sen. Schumer believes in following the Boy Scouts' motto: be prepared," said Phil Singer, spokesman for the New York lawmaker, who has not yet officially announced that he will seek a second term.

No big-name opponents have stepped up to challenge Schumer yet. Wall Street trader Michael Benjamin has said he will seek the Republican Party's nomination and has already sent out fund-raising letters.

Long Island Republican Rep. Peter King had considered running, but announced on Monday that he would not seek the nomination. King said he hoped former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani would challenge Schumer, but also said he doubted that would happen.

Steven Cohen, director of the Executive Masters of Public Administration Program at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, said even without a clear opponent, any candidate in a statewide New York race needs a large campaign chest.

"Schumer will need a lot more than $14 million to win re-election in an even mildly competitive race," Cohen said. "By raising big money early, he may discourage a wealthy candidate from parachuting into the race, and make his election year fund-raising task more manageable."

In February, state GOP chairman Alexander Treadwell asked federal judicial nominee Miguel Estrada to run for Schumer's seat.

Estrada, a former New York lawyer whose nomination to the appeals court by President Bush is in limbo due to Schumer-led opposition from Senate Democrats, has not commented on the request nor the political fight over his nomination.