WASHINGTON – Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Mesa, said Monday that he has more than $2 million in the bank already for his bid to replace retiring Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., in 2012.
Flake’s campaign said the six-term congressman raised more than $800,000 in the last three months, on top of the $1.5 million he had in the bank earlier this year.
The campaign had not yet filed its second-quarter report with the Federal Election Commission on Monday and would only provide estimates of the latest fundraising amounts. Officials would not say how much the campaign had spent in the last quarter.
The $2 million bankroll would put Flake well ahead of any potential challengers, none of whom has reported raising any funds for the race. But it is only a portion of the $6 million that one expert said would be a typical amount needed for an Arizona Senate race.
Flake campaign staffers acknowledged that, saying they plan to continue their vigorous fundraising by focusing now on grassroots support and building infrastructure.
“We are always running as if we are losing, and we are not going to let up just because we have an early start,” said campaign spokesman Steve Voeller.
Even though he has more to raise, Flake might have scared off potential challengers by getting a fundraising head-start, said Chuck Coughlin, president of HighGround Public Affairs Consultants in Phoenix.
“Clearly his early efforts have paid off in candidate suppression,” Coughlin said.
None of the other candidates filed with the FEC reported raising any money in the first quarter of the year.
The Arizona Democratic Party said two prospective candidates — David Crowe, CEO of Tucson Embedded Systems, and Don Bivens of Phoenix law firm Snell and Wilmer — have opened exploratory committees for the Senate race but have not reported raising any money. Neither Crowe nor Bivens could be contacted Monday.
Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Phoenix, and Arizona Democratic Party Chairman Andrei Cherny are also reported to be considering campaigns, but neither has confirmed a bid. Pastor’s office said Monday he has not made a decision about the race.
Coughlin said Flake has been quite successful raising funds this early in the election cycle, but he thinks Flake will need to raise at least $4 million more before the fall 2012 elections.
Coughlin said the more than $20 million that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., spent in his 2010 re-election bid is an anomaly in Arizona politics and that $6 million is more typical for a Senate race in the state.
Even though Flake is strong on fundraising at this point in the campaign, Coughlin said he is weak on name recognition. He said Flake spends most of his time speaking about ideals — now popular in the political landscape — like less government and fiscal conservatism.
“He has not been a front-page news guy. His legislative accomplishments are not what he talks about,” Coughlin said.
In a Sunday profile of Flake, the Washington Post portrayed him as someone whose idealism caused rifts, even with members of his own party, before the new conservative wave hit the Capitol. Flake was an outspoken opponent of spending and earmarks at a time when those were not popular stances.
Coughlin, a longtime political campaign adviser in Arizona, said Flake must increase his name recognition because he can expect to face at least one serious contender in both the primary and general elections in this race.
“He has to spend some resources to drive his name ID up,” Coughlin said.