Leading up to the election last November, Chris Bowers initiated the Use It or Lose It project, urging unopposed members of Congress to contribute their money to the DCCC in support of other competitive races. In addition, I found 64 more districts with token opposition (Republican had raised less than $10,000 total). California’s districts, safely drawn as many of them are, were well represented on these two lists, and while many of California’s Democrats were very supportive, not all of them were. Our representatives have a responsibility to support the party as a whole whenever possible, and sitting on piles of cash is both a waste and a betrayal of good faith. Here’s a look at how the delegation performed so that we can start applying pressure where necessary.
Let’s begin with completely unchallenged Democrats from last cycle. I’m not yet getting into what help these Democrats did or did not give the party or individual candidates (one thing at a time). This is simply the raw numbers, but certainly a few things will jump out.
Unopposed (or unfunded Republican) and Cash on Hand (12/31/06):
CA-05 Doris Matsui $78,466
CA-07 George Miller $176,990
CA-12 Tom Lantos $1,367,651
CA-14 Anna Eshoo $341,669
CA-16 Zoe Lofgren $147,670
CA-17 Sam Farr $112,511
CA-20 Jim Costa $205,014
CA-28 Howard Berman $407,149
CA-29 Adam Schiff $1,376,605
CA-31 Xavier Becerra $448,286
CA-32 Hilda Solis $143,566
CA-33 Diane Watson $2,488
CA-34 Lucille Roybal-Allard $38,943
CA-35 Maxine Waters $101,768
CA-37 Juanita Millender-McDonald N/A
So obviously, not all of these people are being miserly. Diane Watson, for example, isn’t exactly going home to swim in money or anything. There’s no way of knowing whether any of these districts will face a serious challenge in 2008, but with the exception of Jim Costa in CA-20, all of these districts have a PVI of D+12 or more and thus aren’t particularly vulnerable. That means that the money is legitimately in play. Some of these folks get it, some (Ahem Tom Lantos? Adam Schiff?) seem not to.
In addition to the above, there are several more California Democrats who faced only token opposition. For our purposes here, I’m drawing a different (though still arbitrary) line at $25,000 in total money raised to establish “token” status. Without a doubt, it’s tough to run a serious campaign in this state with $26,000, but I think the bar is low enough so as to not be debatable.
Token Republican Opposition and Cash on Hand (12/31/06):
CA-06 Lynn Woolsey $24,531
CA-10 Ellen Tauscher $211,924
CA-30 Henry Waxman $652,596
CA-36 Jane Harman $225,448
CA-38 Grace Napolitano $194,155
CA-43 Joe Baca $7,044
CA-51 Bob Filner $6,369
Again offered without comment on extenuating circumstances (particularly with respect to primary challenges). Again, not everyone has a deathgrip on the cash here. Woolsey, Baca and Filner are clearly spending what they’ve got. It’s important though that we make sure this commitment keeps up. And again, there’s no way of knowing this far out where we’ll see a well-funded challenge, but Filner and Tauscher are the only ones on this list who represent districts with PVIs of single-digit Dem leanings, which means these folks for the most part don’t need to be worried about a tough Republican challenge. Henry Waxman for example, and God bless his legislative ass-kicking, really doesn’t need that money to keep himself in office. Spend it through the DCCC, spend it on local infrastructure, but don’t just let it rot.
This cannot be a last-minute project like last year. We have to work towards creating a culture of support for the party whenever possible. And if we have representatives who don’t feel that the country is better off with more Democrats in office, we need to know that sooner than later. Last year, Marty Meehan (MA-05) sat on more than $5 million and then, when he wasn’t going to be able to run for Senate, took the money and went home. We won’t miss him, but that money really might’ve helped, say, Larry Kissell or Charlie Brown. This is what we’re trying to avoid.
This is not meant to be a one-way street. Those who are not in need should pay in as much as possible, and those who are in need should take out as much as needed. But it only works when the caucus buys into the idea that the financial health of the party is more important than the financial health of the individual. Working together will be much more effective over the long haul than working as individuals, and it’s important to convey that message to our representatives. So as you watch fundraising progress, and as you have opportunities to talk with your representatives, think about and ask about the degree to which they’re supporting the party as opposed to their own bank accounts. House Dems are kicking some serious ass so far in 2007, which is great. Let’s make sure that the DCCC gets the extra support from our Representatives that it deserves.