WASHINGTON — The election season is barely behind them, but freshmen Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Flagstaff, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, have both raised more than $300,000 toward possible re-election bids in 2014, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
It is only a fraction of the more than $2 million each woman raised for her 2012 campaign, but was still enough to rank the two Arizonans in the top 15 fundraisers this year among freshmen members of Congress, according to a list compiled by CQ Roll Call.
They have reason to be prepared: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named Sinema and Kirkpatrick to a list of 26 most-vulnerable House Democrats in the next election.
A strong lead in fundraising can help protect a candidate’s position, said Rudy Espino, a political science professor at Arizona State University.
“Quite simply, it’s just to deter any potential challengers,” he said of the upfront fundraising.
He also said these Democrats may be more vulnerable in a midterm election without the political coattails of a strong Democratic presidential candidate.
Sinema is already facing four prospective opponents, including Wendy Rogers, who has raised more than $100,000, and Andrew Walter, a former NFL player who just announced his candidacy. Vernon Parker, the 2012 GOP nominee, is also running again, a state party official said.
Tim Sifert, a spokesman for Arizona Republican Party, criticized the early fundraising of Sinema and Kirkpatrick.
“These Democrats are clearly spending more time focused on their own campaign bank accounts, instead of our jobs and our economy,” Sifert said in an email.
But Rodd McLeod, Sinema’s campaign spokesman, said it is not usual for campaigns to start early in competitive districts. He also said that after fighting more than $2 million in negative TV ads in the last election, the campaign is prepared for 2014.
“Kyrsten is strong and battle-tested,” he said.
During the 2012 campaign season, Sinema raised about $2.2 million, according to the FEC.
Kirkpatrick is not a true freshman, because she was elected to Congress in 2008 before losing her seat in 2010. She raised just under $2.4 million for the 2012 campaign, when early fundraising was key to winning back the seat, said her 2012 campaign manager, Carmen Gallus.
Gallus said campaigning early allowed Kirkpatrick to combat ads funded by large political action committees later in the election.
“At the end of the campaign, when all the super PACs started to come in and flood the airwaves, we were able to come in and remain strong,” Gallus said.
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said that these Arizona districts would be a priority for the GOP because the two Democrats won with very thin margins and less than 50 percent of the vote.
He said their records since coming to Congress would hurt them in 2014, specifically votes against the budget plan by Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., and a smaller proposal that would have required members of Congress to fly coach.
“All things that are not going to sit well with voters in Arizona,” he said.
But a recent ranking showed Kirkpatrick, along with Rep. Ron Barber, D-Tucson, as among the Democrats most likely to buck their party on votes in this Congress.
Gallus said Kirkpatrick has stayed focused on issues that matter to her district, including supporting legislation to bring new copper mining to the district.
“She is a true moderate if you look at her voting record,” Gallus said.
Sinema has also worked hard to stay connected with her district through free events, McLeod said.
“She’s very focused on working with the folks in the 9th District,” he said.
Espino said that swing districts encourage all candidates to lean toward the center ideologically, but generally are far less stable.
“Competitive districts are more likely to see turnover,” he said.