Fundraising Reports Spur Retirement Rumors

Any senators who are thinking of calling it quits have probably already made their plans public. Now, it's time for House Democrats and Republicans to sit on pins and needles, wondering which members will announce their retirements in the next six to eight months.

The fundraising reports members of Congress filed this week give an early hint of which seats might be open next year.

Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., hasn't yet made a decision about running in 2014, but he doesn't seem to be preparing for another election. Coble raised $37,182 during the second quarter and ended with $38,116 on hand (an earlier report showing that Coble had raised just $4,000 represented only his June fundraising and has since been amended). Coble will be 83 on Election Day and has said that he'll retire if his health or other factors interfere with his reelection plans. He was hospitalized in February with dizziness.

Coble spokesman Ed McDonald said that Coble remains "truly undecided," but will make a decision before a barbeque fundraiser on Sept. 18 for his reelection campaign. In perhaps an inadvertent sign of things to come, Coble was recently featured on the cover of a retirement resources magazine.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., raised about $93,800 in the second quarter and has just $205,000 on hand as he seeks a 13th term in the House. Peterson has always performed strongly in his reelection efforts, but on paper his district tilts Republican and the national party would love a shot at his seat. He may not have a challenger yet, but Peterson's second-quarter haul certainly isn't scaring any Republicans off.

Peterson spokeswoman Allison Myhre said that the congressman has not yet made a decision about running for reelection. "Typically he makes that decision in February," she said.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., raised a mere $39,187 in the second quarter and ended with just $88,361 on hand, less than one-seventh what his top opponent, Republican state Sen. Jim Tracy, has in the bank. The scandal DesJarlais survived in 2012 appears to be catching up to him and he could opt to bow out early, rather than compete in what promises to be a tough, personal race.

But DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson said that the congressman is definitely staying in the race. "He absolutely plans on running again," Jameson said. "And he plans to win." DesJarlais hasn't yet turned his focus to fundraising and didn't hold a single fundraising event last quarter, Jameson added.

An analysis of DesJarlais's campaign finance reports shows that more than half of his spending in the second quarter went to fundraising consultants. Jameson said much of the consultants' work was focused on preparing for the third quarter. The campaign will hold a kickoff and other fundraising events in August, a year out from the primary.

Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., turned in another poor fundraising report this quarter, raising just over $86,000 for his reelection. Young has never been a strong fundraiser, but this year he faces much stiffer competition in that department. Jessica Ehrlich, his 2012 opponent, now with the backing of Democratic groups like EMILY's List, brought in nearly twice as much cash. Young still leads in cash on hand with $243,000 to Ehrlich's $131,000, but Ehrlich could soon turn that around. Young will be 84 years old when the next Congress begins, and he could be ready to call it day.

A spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

Eighty-year-old Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, raised just $63,000 in the second quarter — about half what he brought in at this point in 2011. Young, who filed for reelection last month, can seek some comfort in the nearly $517,000 he has left in the bank. But he already has one primary challenger, and his poor fundraising total and ethics issues could encourage others to get into the race.

Young is currently under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for misusing campaign funds and lying to federal officials. At least he didn't spend any of his campaign money on lawyers this quarter. Back in 2008, Young spent more than $1 million out of his campaign account to pay his legal fees for an earlier investigation. He has since established a legal defense fund.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, raised $30,500 in the second quarter and has less than $100,000 in the bank. The 77-year-old has won with more than 72 percent of the vote in every reelection campaign she's waged, with the exception of a close call in 1996. With that kind of record, Johnson won't need much money to hold her seat, but her second-quarter haul and cash-on-hand figures are less than half of what she had at this point in 2011.

Johnson has yet to say whether she will seek reelection next year. Asked about Johnson's fundraising and whether she will seek reelection, a spokesman laughed and declined to comment.

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., raised $80,607, about $50,000 less than he brought in during the second quarter of 2011. Still, it's a marked improvement on his $37,000 first-quarter haul, and he has $254,890 on hand. Hastings has never been the strongest fundraiser, but he just got a primary challenger in Port of Palm Beach Commissioner Jean Enright, who has a built-in base in one of the district's largest counties and could be a strong fundraiser herself.

Hastings spokesman Lale Mamaux said the congressman is absolutely committed to seeking reelection and held a kick-off event with Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., and 250 supporters in June.

With a $129,700 haul this quarter, 90-year-old Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, is running for reelection and kicked off his campaign in May. "I know what I'm doing and I enjoy doing it," Hall said at the time.

Just three members of Congress have already made their retirement plans known. Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and John Campbell, R-Calif., have indicated that they will retire at the end of their terms, while Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala., has announced that he will vacate his seat later this summer. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., retired earlier this year.