Democrat Conor Lamb has a financial edge coming out of the third turn of his 17th Congressional district race against Republican Keith Rothfus. Campaign finance reports covering the last full quarter before the Nov. 6 election show that he outraised his rival in the nation’s only November election contest where two incumbents face each other.
Lamb raised $1,185,969.78 between July and September, according to reports filed Oct. 15. That total was swelled by contributions from around the country channeled through ActBlue, an online fundraising tool used by Democrats to cast a wide net for contributions.
Rothfus, meanwhile, raised $581,359.31 from individuals and independent political committees. But he was able to boost that total by nearly $175,000 with transfers from other fundraising committees he is authorized to draw from. That boosted his total to $756,147.96 by the end of September.
Both candidates spent about the same amount of money laying the groundwork for the home stretch. Lamb spent $2.38 million between July and September, while Rothfus spent $2.32 million.
Lamb’s fundraising edge over Rothfus is no surprise: He is considered a rising star in Democratic circles, after his special-election win over Rick Saccone in the old 18th Congressional district last spring brought national renown. Rothfus, though he has served three terms in the old 12th district, has seen his own prospects dim as outside groups tied to the GOP have withdrawn planned advertising buys.
Polling suggests Lamb with a solid lead over his rival. The two men will take part in the second of two televised debates on WTAE-TV tonight at 7 p.m. The debate will be broadcast live on 90.5 WESA-FM.
North of Pittsburgh, there is another sign of a competitive race in the 16th district, which stretches from Erie to Butler County. Democrat Ron DiNicola, an attorney who has run for Congress and lost twice before, has outraised incumbent Republican Mike Kelly, posting $569,686.54 to Kelly’s $517,416.79.
DiNicola’s coffers were swelled by support from Democratic-friendly sources like unions and environmental groups, who have been critical of Kelly. Kelly, meanwhile, received support from interests that include energy companies and insurers.
Democrats have been buzzing about the prospects for a DiNicola win: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted Kelly with attack ads on TV. But polling suggests that Kelly retains the advantage in a district where Donald Trump was able to win even traditionally Democratic Erie County in 2016.
The picture is darker for Democrats in the new 14th district, a Republican-friendly area that stretches across more rural areas including Washington, Westmoreland, Fayette and Greene counties. Democrat Bibiana Boerio raised $282,406.30, which included backing from Democratic groups and unions. But Boerio’s largest backer was herself: She spent more than $111,000 on her campaign in the form of direct cash infusions and “in-kind” donations.
Her Republican opponent, Guy Reschenthaler, raised $389,189.24. Much of that came from familiar GOP sources, including Republican-elected officials, a PAC affiliated with Koch Industries, and political committees in the energy and insurance sectors. Reschenthaler's total is not in itself daunting, but pundits agree that the 14th district will be an uphill climb for Democrats. And Boerio hasn't been able to build a financial edge to help her ascend it.