TOPEKA — There is an adage in political fundraising: early money is like yeast, it makes the dough rise.
In the next week, three Republican candidates to represent Kansas’ 1st District in Congress will disclose how much early money they have raised. The Federal Election Commission requires candidates for federal office to reveal the funds they have accumulated every three months.
With the year’s second quarter ending June 30, the FEC is expected to post its latest filings online in the coming days, providing further fodder for speculation about the congressional race.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, chairman of the Tea Party Caucus and a staunch conservative, is being challenged by Great Bend obstetrician Roger Marshall and Clyde native Alan LaPolice, a student retention specialist. Since Marshall and LaPolice both joined the race in the second quarter of 2015, the upcoming disclosure will be the first look into their campaign finances.
For LaPolice, there won’t be much to look at. Asked Monday about what political observers can expect from his FEC filings, LaPolice said “nothing and nothing.”
“I am reporting zero in contributions as of June 30,” LaPolice wrote in an email. “I had asked for nothing. I do not want to comment much on it other than to say elections are about people. Leaders represent people.”
Fort Hays State University political science professor Chapman Rackaway said LaPolice is making “a strategic miscalculation.”
“It’s a bit of a big deal,” Rackaway said. “He knows you need to raise money and raise money constantly.”
LaPolice garnered 35,108 votes to Huelskamp’s 42,847 in the Aug. 5, 2014, primary, a race widely regarded as surprisingly narrow considering LaPolice’s status as a political novice. Huelskamp went on to defeat Democrat Jim Sherow and win a third term in Congress.
On May 22, Huelskamp formally filed as a candidate for the state’s 1st District. Huelskamp’s campaign committee, Kansans for Huelskamp, raised $143,578 in the first three months of 2015 and had $607,178 on hand at the end of March, according to FEC filings.
Rackaway expects that number to approach or eclipse $1 million after the second quarter filings. If Huelskamp chooses to aggressively fundraise, Rackaway said Huelskamp could easily double that amount, leaving the incumbent with $2 million to spend on his re-election.
For the two challengers, Rackaway said, money will serve several purposes, allowing Marshall and LaPolice to increase their name recognition and spread their message while fending off possible criticisms by the Huelskamp campaign.
“Marshall is the unknown quantity. He has the most to prove,” Rackaway said, adding the OB-GYN must spread his message across a district consisting of 63 counties.
Marshall and LaPolice will undoubtedly try to tap the support of donors critical of Huelskamp. Chief among them could be Cecil O’Brate, a Garden City businessman who donated heavily to the anti-Huelskamp political action committee Now or Never PAC last year.
According to the FEC, Now or Never PAC spent $233,945 in advertisements critical of Huelskamp during the 2014 election cycle. FEC documents show the political action committee had $20,697.43 on hand at the end of May.
Rackaway said the endorsements of agriculture groups such as the Kansas Farm Bureau and Kansas Livestock Association could be pivotal moments in the election. Both groups refused to endorse Huelskamp or LaPolice last year, opting not to make an endorsement in the 1st District race.
“When you attract them, you not only attract their support but also their fundraising and donor lists,” Rackaway said. “If someone can fire them up, that’s going to be a big deal.”
Requests for comment from the campaigns of Huelskamp and Marshall weren’t answered Monday.
Though incumbents in all four Kansas congressional districts have filed for re-election, only Huelskamp has drawn a challenger. Rackaway said large fundraising figures in the second quarter for Reps. Lynn Jenkins, Kevin Yoder and Mike Pompeo could signal an attempt to scare away potential challengers.
Jenkins’ campaign committee, Lynn Jenkins for Congress, took in $267,100 between January and March and had $498,132 on hand at the end of March. Yoder for Congress raised $321,424 between January and March and had $1,510,563 on hand at the end of March. Pompeo for Congress received $141,910 in contributions between the beginning of January and end of March and had $1,177,230 on hand at the end of March.