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Records show vast differences in campaign funding totals
If elections were decided by fundraising totals, all three of Western North Carolina’s representatives in Congress would be well on their way to securing their next terms in office.
Recent campaign finance filings for the first quarter, along with a brief filing for the weeks before the May 6 primary show Republican Reps. Mark Meadows, Patrick McHenry and Virginia Foxx having strong financial advantages over challengers leading to this fall’s election.
Filings for the initial period, which ended March 31, were made public last month. The pre-primary report, which covers all fundraising between March 31 and May 6, was released recently.
The combined totals shown by all three members offer an indicator of support both in and outside of districts, and explains why political forecasters are not expecting any House races across Western North Carolina to be heated this year.
MORE: ELECTION 2014: Special report coverage from Carolina Public Press
According to the Cook Political Report, Meadows’ 10th District, McHenry’s 11th District and Foxx’s 5th are all rated “Solid Republican,” meaning their respective elections are not considered competitive and unlikely to become closely contested.
Meadows, who is seeking a second term, took it easy on the fundraising front in the early period of 2014. The congressman didn’t accept a single campaign contribution until Feb. 14, and reported only 14 itemized contributions from individuals during the first quarter. The Federal Election Commission requires candidates to itemize campaign contributions totaling more than $200.
In all, Meadows reported raising $20,197 in the first quarter and pre-primary periods. Over the same amount of time, the congressman’s campaign spent $35,859, leaving him with $90,020 to put towards election efforts. Nearly half — or 48 percent — of Meadows’ campaign contributions during the periods came from political action committees (PACs), including groups representing the American Bankers Association, BlueCross BlueShield, and Duke Energy.
The total Meadows raised may seem low compared to other congressional races, but his November Democratic challenger, Tom Hill, reported raising zero dollars for his campaign, according to the latest FEC filings (candidates must have raised or spent at least $5,000 on a campaign in order to be logged in the FEC database). The lackluster match-up likely has GOP donors funneling their dollars toward tighter races.
Meadows’ neighbor to the east, Rep. Patrick McHenry, showed the strongest fundraising of the three, raking in $249,603 during the roughly four-month period. The congressman ended the pre-primary period with $651,341 cash-on-hand, more than 400 times the amount held by his Democratic opponent, Tate MacQueen.
MacQueen, a first-time candidate who is an educator and coach, reported raising more than $22,000 in the first quarter and pre-primary periods. Nearly all of his total was spent, leaving the candidate with $1,548 cash-on-hand with five months remaining before 10th District voters go to the polls.
McHenry drew itemized contributions from 111 individuals during the quarter, with addresses listed at dozens of locations across the 10th District and several more well outside district lines.
More than half of the congressman’s total donations for the period came from PACs—the highest percentage among lawmakers from the 18-county Western North Carolina region.
Many of McHenry’s PAC donors represent members of the banking and financial services industries. The congressman serves as a member of the House Financial Services Committee.
In all, McHenry scored $121,500 from PACs during the period.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, who experienced a landslide victory in the May Republican primary, netted $182,025 in campaign fuel during the first quarter and pre-primary periods, while simultaneously spending $56,000 on her election bid. Having held the 5th District seat for a decade, Foxx has established a staggering $2 million war chest, leaving the winner of July’s Democratic runoff facing an uphill fight.
Neither candidates Josh Brannon nor Gardenia Henley reached the threshold for outright victory in May’s primary. Federal Election Commission records show neither candidate with a single dollar on-hand for their campaigns in the lead up to the runoff, suggesting that the winner of July’s contest will enter their general election campaign at a serious disadvantage.
Foxx reported approximately 30 percent of her campaign contributions for the April quarterly coming from PACs. The representative, who sits on the House Education and Workforce Committee and chairs the Subcommittee on Higher Education, accepted multiple contributions from members of the for-profit education industry. The link was the focus of a recent report by the Center for Responsive Politics, which noted the industry’s accounting for the majority of Foxx’s out-of-state cash (which rivals her colleagues in close races and high-profile lawmakers).
According to the Cook Political Report, North Carolina’s most competitive House races are in the 2nd and 7th Districts, which are rated “Likely Republican” and represented by Reps. Renee Elmers and Mike McIntyre, respectively.
The state’s hottest election this cycle is undoubtedly the U.S. Senate contest between incumbent U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, and her GOP challenger Thom Tillis, who currently serves as House Speaker in the N.C. General Assembly. The race has become a magnet for millions of dollars from outside groups, and a recent Public Policy Polling survey showed Hagan with a five-point lead over Tillis.
The second quarter fundraising period comes to a close June 30.
Candidates are required to disclose contributions by July 15.
Visit ELECTION 2014 for more election coverage.