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Hartzler narrows funding gap in congressional race to unseat Skelton

(Oct. 20, 2010) — Republican candidate Vicky Hartzler spent most of her campaign for Congress this year as a financial underdog. Faced with the daunting prospect of running against 17-term U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Hartzler raised $497,000 during the primary election season and spent most of it to defeat State Sen. Bill Stouffer, who raised almost as much money in a hard-fought primary battle.

Until recently, campaign finance reports showed Skelton had raised $1.9 million and spent only $773,000 of his warchest, mostly on radio and television ad buys questioning Hartzler’s commitment to the military and promotiing his history of bringing large amounts of money to military installations in his district such as Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base.

Hartzler is used to underdog campaigns; in her 2004 role as spokesman for a constitutional amendment barring gay marriage in Missouri, her campaign for traditional marriage was overwhelmingly outspent by her opponents but the amendment still won by a large margin.

That underdog picture for Hartzler changed dramatically in recent weeks, however.

According to the most recent campaign finance reports completed on Sept. 30, Skelton has now raised $2.35 million and spent $2.03 million with only $525,660 cash on hand. The total raised is still far ahead of Hartzler’s fundraising of $1.02 million with $591,000 spent, but Hartzler still has $423,652 cash on hand.

That means for the last month of the election campaign, Hartzler and Skelton could be running neck-and-neck with their advertising buys and other campaign expenses.

The other two candidates in the race, Constitution Party candidate Greg Cowan and Libertarian Party candidate Jason Michael Braun, aren’t a factor, financially speaking. Cowan reported raising only $1,047 and spending $1,990, of which $248 came from his own pocket. The Libertarian Party candidate didn’t file a financial report.

Self-financing isn’t limited to the third-party candidates. About 13 percent of Hartzler’s funds — $129,492 — come from her own contributions; 76 percent of her money comes from individual contributions and $97,964 comes from political action committees. Hartzler owns an agricultural equipment dealership with her husband as well as a diversified farming operation.

Skelton has raised more actual cash from individual contributors — $1.09 million for Skelton compared to $776,234 for Hartzler — but 53 percent of his total contributions come from political action committees, often related to the defense industry. Hartzler has a far lower number of PAC contributions but those which she has received are largely from agribusiness interests or from conservative ideological groups.

Independent expenditures also play a major role in the race, with almost half as much being spent by outside groups as by the candidates themselves.

According to Federal Election Commission filings, as of last week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent $743,981 in ads opposing Hartzler which weren’t authorized by Skelton, $321,864 in the last week alone. The National Republican Congressional Committee has spent $886,369 in ads opposing Skelton which weren’t authorized by Hartzler, $278,446 of which were spent in the last week.

In addition, the Campaign for Working Families spent $73,765 last week opposing Skelton with independent expenditures not authorized by Hartzler, that committee’s first expenditure of the campaign season in the Skelton-Hartzler race.

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