Fewer than 700 votes kept Johnston County’s David Rouzer from defeating nine-term Congressman Mike McIntyre in the 2012 election. Now Rouzer is hoping some early fundraising will erase that deficit in the next election.
Rouzer has raised about $180,000 from individual donors in the early going, compared to $80,000 by McIntyre, according to the Rouzer campaign.
Rouzer, a Republican who served in the state Senate, said he sees this as a positive sign. “What it tells me is a lot of people are still engaged in this election … particularly this early,” he said. “Almost a year and a half out, that speaks well, I think.”
Both campaigns are quietly preparing for another tight race. McIntyre, a Democrat whose district was redrawn to include Republican-leaning Johnston County, spent a lot of time earlier this year reaching out to county leaders. In 2012, he lost the county by a wide margin.
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Rouzer is also acquainting himself with new territory, touring the coastal counties that went to McIntyre in the last election. The Republican challenger has another obstacle, however – funding.
McIntyre, a Washington veteran with campaign experience going back to 1996, raised about $2.3 million in 2012, compared to Rouzer’s $1.5 million. More than half of McIntyre’s funding came from political action committees; when it came to individual donations, Rouzer actually had an edge.
The pattern is reemerging in the 2014 cycle. McIntyre’s campaign has about $383,000 in cash on hand, compared to Rouzer’s $161,000. Roughly 70 percent of McIntyre’s funding is coming from PACs.
But Rouzer’s campaign doesn’t see a repeat. Brock McCleary, a Pennsylvania-based consultant working for the challenger, said Rouzer was preoccupied with his duties in the General Assembly last time around.
“The campaign suffered from a lack of funds and a lack of time to really fundraise the way they wanted to,” McCleary said.
Rouzer added that in 2012, he also drained part of his funds campaigning in the primary against fellow Republican Ilario Pantano. Rouzer said he hasn’t heard of any primary opponents in 2014, though he acknowledged it’s still early.
McIntyre, however, will face a challenger in the 2014 Democratic primary. Jonathan Barfield, a commissioner in New Hanover County, announced last month that he was running.
Rouzer said that might work in his favor. “We could very well have a reversal from 2012, when I drained a lot of my money in the primary,” he said.
McIntyre said he did not wish to comment on his campaign fundraising or spending. In an email to the Herald, he said this is not the right time to worry about it. Instead, he said, he’s focusing on constituent work.
“This is not campaign season,” McIntyre wrote. “We are doing our job and are excited to have the opportunity to serve all the citizens of Johnston – not any particular group.”
In the past year, McIntyre has opened three offices – in Smithfield, Benson and Clayton – in a county that hasn’t historically had a Congressional field office. He says he’s successfully reaching his new constituents.
“Folks have received us well, and they have appreciated our having offices of the United States Congress in Johnston,” he wrote.
But McCleary said he expects the county to stay red. Rouzer just needs to campaign in some of the coastal areas that make up McIntyre’s stronghold, he said.
“This is probably the best pickup opportunity for Republicans in the House,” McCleary said. “And I think it’s very clear that David has a strong Republican base in the 7th District.”