News analysis: In District 2 race, GOP expecting cash infusion | September 12th, 2010

PANAMA CITY — With the race for the Second Congressional District seat considered a tossup by many political organizations, incumbent Rep. Allen Boyd could be forced to raise money to protect his seat — the first time in years — and analysts say it will need to be substantial.

The most recent Federal Election Commission filings made Aug. 4, before the primary elections, show the seven-term Congressman had $762,201 cash on hand, compared to Republican challenger Steve Southerland, with $85,505. It’s an advantage the National Republican Congressional Committee described as “no longer insurmountable.”

That Boyd faces a serious fundraising challenge now shows just how different this election could be. In 2008, he raised $1.45 million, compared to $33,414 from Republican challenger Mark Mulligan, and in 2006 he ran unopposed.

Boyd’s campaign believes it will maintain the financial advantage.

“Congressman Boyd appreciates the support of his donors,” campaign manager J.R. Starrett said last week. “The campaign still maintains an advantage in the number of individual contributors from the Second Congressional District who are supporting Congressman Boyd.”

Southerland’s campaign is confident that support from those inside and outside the area will help the political newcomer win in November.

“You can’t win this race by speaking to small groups and knocking on doors,” said Southerland’s campaign manager, Jonathan Hayes.

Because of the size of the district — it covers more than 11,000 square miles from Destin to Cross City — Hayes said it’s important to fundraise to reach voters because it’s impossible to meet them all in person.

Negative ads

The Southerland campaign has seen help of sorts from Americans for Prosperity, a tax-exempt organization run by David and Charles Koch, billionaires whose fortune comes from the oil industry. They’ve spent $261,000 for ads in three of Florida’s congressional districts, including District 2.

The ad is not in support of Southerland, as the organization cannot support candidates, but is an attack on Boyd, saying he “supports Nancy Pelosi’s liberal agenda,” specifically health care reform and the stimulus package.

Asked about the ads, Hayes said he hasn’t seen all of the ads that have aired, but “people have the right to free speech.” Southerland would, however, distance himself from any ads that focus on personal attacks instead of policy issues, Hayes said.

Though no third-party organization has aired negative commercials about Southerland, Boyd’s campaign has been running ads that attack the candidate’s stances.

The commercials now airing show Southerland speaking at campaign events. The ads accuse Southerland of blaming the American people for problems in the country and highlight his support of repealing the 17th amendment, which allowed for the direct vote of senators. It also attacks Southerland’s stances on Medicare and Social Security.

On Tuesday, Boyd’s campaign received an endorsement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization that primarily backs Republicans. The organization pledged to spend $75 million nationwide during the election season. According to records from the Washington Post, the organization has spent $2.64 million during the campaign so far, 89 percent of it in favor of Republican candidates.

The Southerland campaign said it expects donations from individuals to make a big difference in the election. The individual donations show that people know Southerland, Hayes said, and he expects campaign fundraising will be a mix of individuals giving small amounts and large donations. He noted not many give the maximum donation of $2,400 per individual.

Through Aug. 4, the campaign reported contributions of $398,197. Of that, $318,485 was itemized donations from businesses and individuals. A review of those donations shows $314,717 came from Florida businesses and residents, about 97 percent of it from those in the district.

In the time since the August reporting period — the next financial report is due in October — Hayes said the campaign has received more donations from people outside the area, many giving small amounts, such as the $20.10 donation for the campaign’s 2010 Club.

Boyd’s campaign reported $1.73 million in contributions for the same period. Of that, $490,066 was itemized contributions from businesses and individuals. A review of those donations shows $352,342 came from Florida, about half of it from those in the district.

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