July 20--No matter who wins the race for the region's two congressional seats Nov. 4, the campaigns are all but certain to be more expensive than the 2012 races.
New financial filings show the campaign committees for the two incumbent Republicans running for the House -- Mike Kelly, of Butler County, in the 3rd Congressional District; and Glenn Thompson, of Centre County, in the 5th -- appear on their way to raising as much or more money than they did in 2012, when both spent more than $1 million.
The campaign committees of the respective Democratic challengers -- Dan LaVallee, of Butler County, in the 3rd District; and Kerith Strano Taylor, of Jefferson County, in the 5th -- have raised much less money than the incumbents to date. But the campaign committees of both LaVallee and Taylor are set to raise more money than the committees of the Democratic candidates in the 2012 campaign.
Among the Republicans, Kelly's campaign committee received $1,164,179 and spent $550,812 in the current two-year election cycle, or the period between Nov. 7, 2012, the day after the most recent House election, and June 30.
The figures are in the most recent Federal Election Commission financial reports, which were due Tuesday.
For the full 2012 election cycle, which covered the entire 2012 race, Kelly's campaign received $1,182,488 and spent $1,187,482.
Thompson's campaign committee received $973,944 and spent $721,704, for the current election cycle, as of June 30. The committee for the full 2012 cycle received $1,277,041, and spent $1,296,854.
Among the Democrats, the committee for LaVallee, who was unopposed in the May primary, raised $239,906 and spent $117,373 in the current election cycle, as of June 30.
During that same period in 2012, the committee for Missa Eaton, a Democrat who lost to Kelly on Nov. 6, 2012, raised $130,867 and spent $109,385. And during the entire 2012 election cycle, Eaton's committee raised a total of $250,697 -- only about $20,000 more than LaVallee's campaign has raised to date. Eaton's committee spent a total of $229,674 during the full 2012 election cycle.
The fundraising differences among the Democratic nominees are also pronounced in the 5th Congressional District. The campaign committee for Taylor, who was opposed in the May primary, raised $55,510 during the current election cycle, as of June 30, and spent $46,122. During the entire 2012 election cycle, the committee for Democrat nominee Charles Dumas, who lost to Thompson, raised a total of $34,872 and spent $34,043, according to the new FEC reports.
Kelly and Thompson both won easily in 2012, with Kelly facing a harder challenge. Kelly, 66, an auto dealer who was first elected in 2010, defeated Eaton, of Sharon, a former assistant professor of psychology at Penn State Shenango, 54.7 percent to 41.1 percent. An Independent nominee, Steven Porter, of Wattsburg, received 4 percent of the vote.
Eaton in the race defeated Kelly in heavily Democratic Erie County, 58 percent to 37 percent. Redistricting split Erie County between the 3rd and 5th Congressional Districts starting with the 2012 race.
Thompson, 54, a former health-care worker and manager first elected in 2008, defeated Dumas, a Pennsylvania State University theater professor, 63 percent to 37 percent in 2012. In Erie County, Thompson beat Dumas by 3,387 votes -- 24,810 to 21,423.
In the current race, Taylor, 38, a lawyer, and LaVallee, who is in his mid-20s and formerly worked in health insurance, would be expected to raise less money than the incumbents, said Robert Speel, an associate professor of political science at Penn State Behrend.
He said incumbents win in 90 percent of their races, and that donors want to give to candidates "who will be in office." Political action committees especially, he said, "almost always want to give to people who are going to win."
The 5th Congressional District encompasses all or part of 16 counties. It covers most of eastern and central Erie County, including much of Millcreek Township.
The 3rd Congressional District stretches from Lake Erie to Butler County. It includes the city of Erie and western Erie County.
ED PALATTELLA can be reached at 870-1813 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNpalattella.
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