Democratic challengers have strong fundraising quarters in St. Louis-area U.S. House races

WASHINGTON • Two Democratic challengers outraised Republican incumbents from July through September in St. Louis-area congressional districts that national Democrats have said are key to their taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018.

The two were lawyer Cort Van Ostran, in Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District; and St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly, in Illinois’ 12th. The Republican incumbents in those districts — Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, and Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, respectively — still have significant cash-on-hand advantages, however.

In another St. Louis-area district that national Democrats say they may target — Illinois’ 13th — incumbent Republican Rep. Rodney Davis raised a hefty $385,000 from July through June, and had more than $1 million on hand as of Oct. 1. Three potential Democratic challengers raised significant amounts, but lag far behind Davis in cash on hand.

The third-quarter reports to the Federal Election Commission paint a picture of the continuing power of incumbency, but also give hints that a handful of congressional races in the region could be more competitive in 2018 than in the recent past.

Bost, Davis and Wagner won by significant margins in 2016, but against candidates who had trouble raising money and engendering support from the national Democratic Party.

This time, however, Bost has already been the target of negative ads from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Wagner, who decided to not challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., in Missouri’s premier Senate race next year, remains one of the top House fundraisers. She ended September with $3.3 million after raising $211,000 in the third quarter, according to reports she filed to the Federal Election Commission. She has raised almost $2 million this year, and is a rainmaker for other Republican candidates around the country.

Van Ostran raised just over $225,000 and had about $182,000 on hand as of Oct. 1. He is one of at least four Democrats expected to seek the Democratic Party nomination to challenge Wagner.

Kelly Dunaway, a lawyer and founding director of the St. Louis Chapter of the New Leaders Council, reported raising about $46,000, ending with about $23,000 on hand at the end of September. Mark Osmack, an army veteran and Bronze Star recipient during his service in Afghanistan, told the Post-Dispatch he raised about $30,000 and had about $25,000 on hand at the end of the quarter. Bill Haas, a perennial candidate and member of the elected St. Louis School Board, lent his campaign $25,000, and raised $432 during the quarter.

Other regional congressional fundraising:

Missouri 1st • Veteran Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, raised about $83,000 from July through September, ending the quarter with roughly $268,000.

Democratic challenger Cori Bush, an ordained pastor and registered nurse, reported that she raised about $22,000 and had about $12,000 on hand as of Oct. 1. Two other Democrats listed by the FEC — Susan Bolhafner and DeMarco Davidson — did not have financial reports filed on the FEC site late Monday.

Missouri 3rd • Despite not having an opponent who has filed with the FEC, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, raised $332,375 last quarter and had more than $2.4 million in his campaign accounts. However, just over $1 million of that is listed as a personal loan that Luetkemeyer, a former banker, made to his campaign when he first ran for Congress in 2008.

Luetkemeyer has risen in rank in the House Financial Services Committee, and is known to have aspirations to chair that committee. In what could be seen as political chit-building, Luetkemeyer’s campaign has donated to campaigns of fellow Republican members of the House Financial Services Committee.

Illinois 12th • Bost raised about $260,000 and had about $533,000 on hand at the end of the quarter. Kelly, who met last week with national Democratic Party officials, raised just short of $357,000 and had $305,000 in his campaign coffers.

Other Democrats have expressed an interest in the Metro East seat, but only one — Pat McMahon — had fundraising reports posted on the FEC site as of Monday afternoon. He had $51 in the bank as of Oct. 1.

Illinois 13th • Davis’ potential Democratic challengers include Erik Jones, a former Illinois assistant attorney general, who raised $225,000 and had just short of $195,000 in his campaign accounts at the end of the quarter.

Betsey Londrigan, a professional and political fundraiser, took in about $185,000 and had roughly $129,000 on hand. Jonathan Ebel, a University of Illinois religion professor, raised just under $97,000 and had about $75,000 in his campaign account. Bloomington doctor David Gill, who lost to Davis in 2012 in the second-closest House race in the country, had about $4,500.

Illinois 15th • Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, who faced a primary challenge in 2016, raised about $170,000 in the third quarter and had just under $1.1 million in his campaign bank as of Oct. 1. Three potential Democratic challengers — Carl Spoerer, Kevin Gaither, and Anthony March — raised nominal amounts in the third quarter, and all had less than $1,600 in their campaign accounts.


October 16, 2017. By Chuck Raasch

In The NewsChris Claflin