The CA-51 money race and beyond

A few weeks removed from the frantic end-of-quarter/world fundraising push, the filings for third quarter are coming public. One spot on the financial map that jumps out is the money war in the 51st Congressional district, where Juan Vargas and Denise Moreno Ducheny are squaring off to succeed the retiring Bob Filner. There, despite only officially entering the race two weeks before the filing deadline, Ducheny reports a larger haul than Vargas does despite having all three months to pull in checks.

Ducheny clocks in at nearly $45,000 raised and about $40,000 net (cash minus debts) on hand to close the quarter. Vargas reports under $33,000 raised for the quarter, putting him at about $54,000 net on hand. Vargas still has nearly three times Ducheny’s gross CoH thanks to a $60,000 personal loan to the campaign.

Now, Vargas has other money stored away whenever he wants to tap the reserves. His 2010 Senate account ended June with more than $67,000, and his 2014 Senate account had nearly $59,000 more.

Hopefully, this doesn’t suggest a pattern for San Diego Democrats. In her Congressional campaign’s first filing, Lori Saldana reports a bit under $19,000 raised, which for a bit of context is less than the equivalent of two married couples doing full max outs — or eight people attending the ‘Congressional Circle Roundtable‘ at last Saturday’s Brian Bilbray fundraiser headlined by John Boehner. Bilbray, incidentally, reported $420,000 on hand and more than $146,000 raised in the third quarter. The disparity has certainly fueled the snap-analysis of Scott Peters’ entrance to the race has centered on his presumed fundraising capacity. hich has already allowed questions of financial viability boost Scott Peters’ entrance into the race (whether he delivers remains to be seen).

Meanwhile, Ben Hueso, either running for re-election to the Assembly or eyeing a move to the State Senate seat vacated by Juan Vargas, finished June with just over $3,000 in the bank.

To be sure, it’s early. Money builds, and those with the longest-standing connections to big-money backers benefit by getting it early. And grassroots appeal, when organized, can overcome some disparity. But money still matters, a lot, and the ability to keep pace is vital. In a matter of days, Ducheny served notice that she’s a serious fundraiser, made Q4 fundraising in the race to succeed Filner a must-watch, and raised the serious possibility that the Vargas/Ducheny matchup could extend all the way to November thanks to the top-two primary.

Meanwhile, there remain questions about Democratic funding throughout San Diego, with Bilbray single-handedly able to almost match the combined warchests of every Democrat running for Congress (including Susan Davis). Whether donors are waiting, sitting the cycle out, or focusing their attention outside of San Diego, cash flow is a question mark across the board heading into the fourth quarter.

by Lucas O’Connor

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