Local Politics

Incumbents have financial head-start for 2010 elections

Posted November 16, 2009 6:10 p.m. EST
Updated November 17, 2009 10:47 a.m. EST

Money in hands

— Newly filed campaign finance forms show challengers for any of North Carolina's 13 congressional districts are already behind in terms of campaign cash.

North Carolina voters will choose all 13 members of the state's delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives next November. No one has yet stepped up to challenge five of the incumbents, including 2nd District Congressman Bob Etheridge, 3rd District Congressman Walter Jones and 6th District Congressman Howard Coble.

They and other incumbents have built huge campaign war chests to fend off challengers, according to campaign finance reports.

"The system is set up to give incumbents a natural advantage," said David McLennan, a political science professor at Peace College.

  • In the 13th Congressional District, which includes some of the Triangle, incumbent Brad Miller has $148,000 on hand, compared with nothing for Republican challenger Bill Randall.
  • Seventh District Congressman Mike McIntyre has almost $845,000 available, compared with $399 for his probable Republican opponent Will Breazeale.
  • Ninth District Congresswoman Sue Myrick has $236,000, while Democratic challenger Jeff Doctor has $2,000.

Money might not buy votes, but it sure helps to win an election. A University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill study found that only five congressional races in North Carolina between 1992 and 2002 were won by candidates who spent less than their opponent.

"The rule of thumb is you have to spend 1½ times what the incumbent does to have a legitimate shot because you don't have the name recognition or some of the other advantages that the incumbent has," McLennan said.

The three Republicans trying to unseat 4th District Congressman David Price have a combined $11,000 in campaign cash, compared with Price's $218,000. Still, Frank Roche, one of the challengers, said he doesn't think he needs much money to run his campaign.

"I don't think we have to spend more than him because we're going to bring a new, courageous, aggressive campaign," Roche said. "Right now, I'm not concerned. If we have the same gap in August of 2010, then I have concern. But we're just starting out. The name recognition is building very well (and) money is flowing in. We have real confidence we'll be able to raise enough money – enough to take him on, for sure."

In the last 12 general elections, only two members of North Carolina's congressional delegation have been kicked out of office by voters.