Today is a day of reckoning for incumbents, self-financers, and Tea Party candidates alike, as primaries in five states winnow the list of political hopefuls in some of this year's most hard-fought congressional races. Tuesday features Senate, House, and gubernatorial races in Alaska, Arizona, Florida, and Vermont, as well as a run-off Republican primary in Oklahoma's Second Congressional District. Republican incumbent Sens. John McCain and Lisa Murkowski will face off against Tea Party upstarts, while the pools of candidates will be pared down in hotly contested open races, like that for Florida's open Senate seat.
In Vermont's Senate primaries, 25-year Senate veteran Patrick Leahy is facing physician and Navy veteran Daniel Freilich. Pre-primary campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, covering the period ending August 4, show Leahy with a commanding financial lead. [See who donates to Leahy's campaign.]
Leahy's FEC filing shows that he has taken in $4.5 million altogether this election cycle, while Freilich has just over $70,000 in receipts, less than 2 percent of Leahy's total. Freilich appears to have stayed true to his promise to not accept PAC or special interest money in his campaign. Rather, he is relying on donations from individuals, including himself—Freilich has given $12,678 of his own money to his campaign. The long-shot Democratic candidate has used his money to great effect, releasing a campaign ad that spoofs the popular Isaiah Mustafa Old Spice ads. The political ad gained major media attention and has nearly 60,000 views on YouTube.
The winner of the Democratic Senate primary will take on Len Britton, who is uncontested in seeking the Republican nomination. Britton's $1,142 in the bank would put him on a relatively even playing field with Freilich, who has just $522 unspent. Leahy, in contrast, is well ahead of Britton in finances, as well as polls, and reports $3.2 million on hand.
The race for Vermont's at-large House seat features three Republican candidates vying to take on Democratic incumbent Peter Welch, who has held the seat since 2007. Conservative talk radio host Paul Beaudry, retired CEO John Mitchell, and grocery store owner Keith Stern are all hoping to unseat Welch.
All three Republican candidates have taken in similar amounts of money, but they have spent it at different levels. Mitchell has by far outspent his opponents, as well as his means, and reported a negative $1,900 on hand after having taken in nearly $11,000 in his campaign. Beaudry's campaign has received $12,311, the most of the three candidates, and now has $2,647 on hand. Stern's only reported campaign money is a $10,000 donation that he made himself, and he has been frugal with it, with $6,773 remaining on hand according his latest filing.
As an incumbent without a primary to fight through, Welch currently has a massive financial advantage over all of his potential Republican opponents. Welch's pre-primary filing shows that he has over $1 million in his campaign account.
While Democrats appear comfortable for now in Vermont's congressional races, the Republican candidate in Vermont's open gubernatorial race is enjoying a lead in both public support and campaign money. The Republican candidate, current Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie, is running uncontested for the nomination, and will face one of four Democratic candidates on November's ballot.
Dubie has out-fundraised all of his Democratic opponents, having taken in $1,036,676 this cycle. This is nearly $400,000 more than his nearest competitor, Vermont Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, who has $620,142 in receipts for this election cycle. Also among top Democrat fundraisers are State Sen. Peter Shumlin, with $591,376 in receipts and State House member Matt Dunne, with $337,628.
Rasmussen polls from both March and late June showed Dubie to be leading when placed head-to-head against any potential candidate. Markowitz, however, appears to be his closest rival, with 40 percent in the June poll to his 47 percent (4.5 percent margin of error).