Democratic Challengers, Open-Seat Candidates Have More Money on Average – But Number Running Is Down

Reports filed by House candidates covering financial activity continue to show an advantage for the Democratic Party among challengers and open seat candidates.

House Democratic challengers raised more than twice as much as their Republican counterparts through Sept. 30. Democrats running for open seats raised 75 percent more than their GOP equivalents.

However, the small number of candidates who have thrown their hats in the ring will weigh heavily on the party’s chances to close the gap in the battle for majority control. Only 153 Democratic challengers and open seat candidates have reported receipts with the Federal Election Commission through September 30. This number of non-incumbent candidates is well behind historic patterns, down from the 269 at this time in 2013 and 365 in 2011.
* Includes only candidates who have reported receipts as of September 30. Excludes incumbents not running for re-election. Excludes special election candidates.

(For a complete historical table of House candidates’ activity through September 30, 2003-2015 click here.)

Looking at non-incumbent activity at this point in the election cycle can provide insight into what we are likely to see on Election Day. Although many more candidates will join the fray, it is likely that any winning challenger in 2016 would already have been active by Sept. 30, 2015.

In 2014, the only winning challenger who had no reported activity by Sept. 30 2013 was in Louisiana’s 5th district. Louisiana is unique in that it holds an open primary on the same day other states hold their general elections. In 2012, only two winning candidates had not reported receipts by this time. In both cases redistricting played a role in delaying candidates’ entry into the race.

The fundraising trends that CFI reported in July have held up through the third quarter. Democratic challengers outnumber Republicans, 95 to 74. They are also raising more money and have more cash on hand than their Republican counterparts.

On average, Democratic challengers have raised $193,000 compared to $83,000 for Republicans. They hold an advantage of $151,000 to $63,000 in cash on hand. Of the top ten challengers in terms of receipts, nine are Democrats.

In open seats Democratic candidates outnumber Republicans, 57 to 42, but both parties are well off their pace from past years. As with the challengers, the open seat Democrats are out-raising the Republicans.

However, the number of districts with no Democratic candidate at all has gone up. And as the old adage says, you can’t beat somebody with nobody.

For full cycle historical data on past congressional elections, click here.

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