WASHINGTON – Several Senate candidates have reached or are approaching the $10 million mark in fund raising as the Democratic and Republican parties wage a coast-to-coast battle to win a majority of seats in the fall election.
The money leaders include Sen. Charles Schumer (search), D-N.Y., who raised more than $25 million through June, compared with $451,000 for his Republican challenger, Howard Mills.
Illinois Democrat Barack Obama (search), the Democratic National Convention's keynote speaker who could become the nation's fifth black senator, raised more than $10 million in his bid for an open Senate seat, according to early campaign reports filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.
Obama doesn't even have a Republican opponent. Rival Jack Ryan abandoned the race after revelations about sex clubs, and former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka rejected Republican entreaties to enter the contest less than four months before the Nov. 2 election.
Schumer's $25 million surpasses the top fund raising at this point in the 2002 midterm elections. The most prolific fund-raiser then was Republican Elizabeth Dole, who had raised about $8 million through June 2002 on her way to winning a North Carolina Senate seat.
Republicans hold a 51-48 edge in the Senate, with one Democratic-leaning independent, in a year that shapes up as a fierce fight for majority control. Thirty-four Senate seats are up this year, with eight open races.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle is facing a challenge at home while trying to win a majority for his party. The South Dakota Democrat has raised at least $13.5 million for his race against Republican John Thune, a former congressman who has taken in at least $6.1 million.
In the contest for an open North Carolina Senate seat, Republican Rep. Richard Burr raised $8.7 million through June, compared to about $7 million for Democratic rival Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff to President Clinton.
In Washington state, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray collected $9.8 million, roughly double the total of her challenger, Republican Rep. George Nethercutt, through June.
Others with fund raising in the millions include:
— Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who raised $16 million through last month, most of that on his way to surviving a bruising primary. His Democratic challenger, Rep. Joe Hoeffel, has raised $2.7 million.
— California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, who raised $14 million as of June 30. Republican challenger Bill Jones collected $3.8 million through last month.
— Missouri Republican Sen. Kit Bond, with $7.6 million collected.
— Republican Rep. Jim DeMint, who has raised more than $4 million for his bid for an open South Carolina Senate seat.
— Former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat who raised $2.7 million through June for his challenge to Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
This year's candidates have a long way to go to surpass 2000's record-setting New York Senate race.
Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Rudy Giuliani each had about $20 million in donations midway through the year. New Jersey banker Jon Corzine led that year's Senate hopefuls with $35 million raised through June, nearly all of it his own money. Democrats Clinton and Corzine won their races; in New York, Giuliani dropped out and Clinton defeated Republican Rick Lazio.
The national party committees are also releasing fund-raising figures covering January 2003 through last month. Among them:
— The National Republican Senatorial Committee collected about $50.3 million during the period and began July with $19.1 million in the bank. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $48.7 million and started this month with $13.5 million on hand.
— The GOP's House fund-raising committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, has raised roughly twice as much as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, but it started July with roughly the same amount on hand as its Democratic rival. The NRCC, trying to keep a House majority, collected at least $113 million this election cycle, finishing June with about $20 million on hand, compared with $55.4 million raised and $18.5 million on hand for the DCCC.
— The Republican National Committee, which can spend unlimited amounts promoting President Bush's re-election, raised at least $217 million this election cycle, starting July with $78 million left.