Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Money talks in the Fifth District Congressional race

Common wisdom in politics is that to be successful, you need three things:  money, message, and people.  Very often, but not always, the candidate with the most money wins.  There are plenty of examples to the contrary tho, such as the 2007 win of Greg Ballard for Mayor of Indianapolis, where he was hugely out-spent by the incumbent and won regardless.

But looking at money in politics, and where it comes from, is always a productive exercise for anyone trying to see behind the scenes.  And since the 1st quarter 2012 numbers are just in on the Federal Election Commission website, let's see what we can glean from that.

First, it is a crowded field, mostly on the Republican side, where 8 candidates filed for the seat being vacating by finally-retiring Congressman Dan Burton.  Of those 8, only 4 seem serious candidates, those being Susan Brooks, a Carmel attorney and former United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana; Dr. John McGoff, a physician and former Marion County Coroner making his third run at the seat; Marion Mayor Wayne Seybold; and David McIntosh, a former Congressman who's residence in Virginia has been the subject of numerous attacks by Brooks, McGoff, Seybold, and numerous commentators, including yours truly in this blog.  There are also two Democrats, State Rep. Scott Reske of Pendleton, a retired Marine Colonel and civil engineer, who seems the only viable Democratic candidate, and a former union representative from Kokomo, Tony Long. 

Of the ten filed candidates, Brooks and McIntosh have raised the most money by the March 31, 2012 reporting deadline.  Brooks has raised a total of $594,895 since she started in July 2011, and has $328,047 cash on hand.  McIntosh also started in July 2011, and has raised a total of $656,249, a great deal of it from out of state, and has $309,805 cash on hand. 

From there is a sharp drop.  Dr. McGoff reports raising $268,839 while he has only $90,422 on hand.  Mayor Seybold is even worse, raising only $75,622, with $31,134 cash on hand.  All 4 major GOP candidates continue their fundraising.

Notably, Democrat Scott Reske has raised $146,351 despite only getting into the race in October, well after Brooks, McIntosh, and McGoff, and has $49,106 on hand, more than Mayor Seybold.  Reske will not have to spend any money on media in the campaign (his opponent's coffers are running red ink), but the GOP candidates will likely spend everything they have on ads in this competitive race.  Reske seems to have raised more money than any Democrat in the Fifth in decades, and has the hurdle of convincing donors that he is for real and viable, which he may just have done with these figures. 

One might think that the GOP side of the race would be a toss-up at this point between Brooks and McIntosh, except for that pesky residency thing.  Brooks, McGoff and Seybold have all attacked McIntosh over his Virginia residency, and complaints have been filed with the new Indiana Secretary of State, the Madison County Election Board, and the Madison County Prosecutor.  If those GOP contenders all put media money into hitting McIntosh on this issue, he could be in bad trouble. 

My call at this point, absent access to any polling numbers, is that Brooks has the advantage in the Republican primary because of her cash on hand and McIntosh's potentially crippling residency problem.  Reske should be a no-brainer because of his experience and organization on the Democratic side, but he should not take the race for granted, as bizarre results have happened before when a candidate assumed victory. 

But for sure, the next three weeks until the primary will be entertaining.