July 29, 2010 at 3:56 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Two gay candidates shine in fundraising

Congressional candidate David Cicilline, the mayor of Providence, R.I., has raised $1.16 million over the course of his campaign. (Photo courtesy of Cicilline)

Two gay politicians posted strong second-quarter fundraising numbers that could propel them to seats in Congress.

Campaign finance reports made public earlier this month show Steve Pougnet, the mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., and David Cicilline, the mayor of Providence, R.I., boasting particularly strong numbers.

And Pougnet had the added accomplishment of keeping his fundraising numbers on par with his incumbent Republican opponent, Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.). Both candidates raised about $400,000 for the April to June period.

The second-quarter numbers mean Pougnet has raised $1,267,910 so far in his campaign, leaving him with $878,283 in cash on hand, while Bono Mack raised $1,731,752, leaving her with $1,241,919 in cash on hand.

In a statement, Pougnet said he’s “incredibly humbled” by the support he’s received in his bid to represent California’s 45th congressional district.

“In these very difficult times, our congresswoman has been absent and it’s clear people are hungry for change,” Pougnet added.

But Ryan Mahoney, campaign manager for Bono Mack, touted the Republican candidate’s fundraising ability and noted that Bono Mack is “humbled” by the support she’s received.

“She is proud to represent the people of California’s 45th congressional district and will continue to fight on their behalf to end reckless spending and debt in Washington and create more jobs and better business opportunities in California,” Mahoney said.

Pougnet’s ability to match Bono Mack during the second quarter is unusual because challengers often do not match their incumbent opponents in fundraising. The fundraising numbers are also significant because the race in the 45th district is widely seen as among the most competitive congressional contests in the country.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put Pougnet on its “Red to Blue” program, and Bono Mack has been a lawmaker the National Republican Congressional Committee has worked to protect.

Notable donations to Pougnet from LGBT groups include $2,400 from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and $6,900 from the Human Rights Campaign. Both organizations have endorsed the candidate. Donations also have come from Bruce Bastian, a Utah-based gay billionaire philanthropist, who donated $2,400; Hilary Rosen, a D.C. lesbian PR executive, who donated $1,000; and Lane Hudson, a D.C. gay activist, who contributed $300.

But Bono Mack is not without LGBT donors. In April, the Log Cabin Republicans gave $500 to her campaign.

Bono Mack had been considered a pro-LGBT Republican because of her votes in favor of the hate crimes bill and a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, as well as votes against the Federal Marriage Amendment. Her record was tarnished in May when she voted against an amendment that would lead to repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin’s national director, noted his organization made the $500 contribution prior to Bono Mack’s vote against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

He said although Bono Mack voted against the repeal amendment, she ultimately voted in favor of the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill as a whole. Consequently, Cooper said Log Cabin’s endorsement of the Republican lawmaker stands.

“[Log Cabin] will continue to work with Representative Bono Mack,” Cooper said. “Using the carrot approach, additional [Log Cabin] PAC funds could be made available contingent upon her future work and performance in the House.”

Cicilline, who’s running to succeed Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) to represent Rhode Island’s 1st congressional district, meanwhile raised $436,000 in the second quarter. He’s raised $1.16 million over the course of his campaign and ended the quarter with $901,000 in cash on hand.

In a statement provided by his campaign, Cicilline said he’s pleased with his fundraising and the LGBT support he received in the second quarter.

“I am extremely grateful to the members of our community who are supporting my campaign for Congress,” he said. “They are helping to ensure that we have the resources necessary to get our message out for the Sept. 14 primary.”

Bill Lynch, the former head of the Rhode Island Democratic Party who’s running against Cicilline in the primary, raised $55,832 in the second quarter. In the same period, he spent $126,000, leaving him with $139,000 in cash on hand.

The winner of the Democratic primary will likely face Republican John Loughlin, an Iraq war veteran and Rhode Island Assembly member. He raised $104,786 in the second quarter while spending $192,000. Loughlin has $101,000 in cash on hand.

Cicilline is running in a safely Democratic district and the Democratic nominee who wins the primary is widely expected to succeed Kennedy in the U.S. House.

The Providence mayor has been the beneficiary of LGBT support over the course of the campaign, particularly during the second quarter. The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which has endorsed Cicilline, contributed $2,400 to his campaign in the second quarter.

Michael Cole, an HRC spokesperson, said his organization donated $721 to Cicilline in the second quarter, which was mostly in-kind contributions raised through HRC’s website.

Noting that HRC previously donated $6,025 to Cicilline, Cole said HRC plans to max out that contribution to $10,000 by year’s end.

Among the notable contributors to Cicilline’s campaign in the second quarter were Bastian, who donated $4,800; Rosen, who donated $500; Joe Solmonese, HRC’s president, who personally donated $500; and Winnie Stachelberg, senior vice president for external affairs at the Center for American Progress, who donated $1,000.

Other gay congressional candidates seeking office didn’t fare as well as Pougnet or Cicilline during the second quarter.

Ed Potosnak, a gay Democratic former staffer for Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and public school teacher running in New Jersey, raised $47,000 in the second quarter while spending $26,000.

His finances leave him with $72,000 in cash on hand. Potosnak has raised $148,000 over the course of his campaign. Potosnak’s GOP opponent in his race to represent New Jersey’s 7th congressional district, one-term incumbent Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), raised $108,000. However, he spent nearly $250,000 in the same period, leaving him with $359,000 in cash on hand.

In what could be an uphill battle for a U.S. House seat, Potosnak is running in a traditionally Republican district. He hasn’t been endorsed by HRC or the Victory Fund.

Despite the funding disparity, Potosnak said he’s happy with the amount he raised in the second quarter because it came from individuals donors and not special interest money.

“Compared to the opponent, the guy that I’m running against, Congressman Lance, I received more contribution from individuals in the last filing — about $5,000 more,” Potosnak said. “I didn’t get the special interest money from the big banks and Wall Street that are fueling his campaign.”

A similar situation with campaign finances is playing out in Florida’s 17th congressional district, where nine candidates, including North Miami City Council member Scott Galvin, are vying for the Democratic nomination in a primary set for Aug. 24.

After raising $57,000 in the second quarter while spending $97,000, Galvin had about $15,000 in cash on hand. He’s raised about $112,000 over the course of his campaign, according to FEC records.

Galvin said he’s feeling good about his finances for the second quarter and was preparing to submit an amended report showing that he has raised $130,000 over the course of his campaign.

“We found several pages of donations that didn’t get included by accident, so for what it’s worth, the to-date total, I guess, would show $130,000,” Galvin said.

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which has endorsed Galvin, contributed $2,400 to his campaign during the second quarter.

The candidate in the Democratic primary with the greatest war chest is Rudolph Moise, a physician and president of the Comprehensive Health Center in North Miami. He raised $938,162 for his campaign, although $800,000 was a personal loan to his campaign from himself. He spent $280,000 in the second quarter, leaving him with $909,000 in cash on hand.

Galvin said the disparity in finances didn’t bother him and he would remain focused on a “grassroots concentrated effort.”

“We’re doing it through all the old-fashioned, knocking-on-door, mail-to-the-home, traditional way of campaigning,” he said.

The 17th congressional district in Florida is also considered a safely Democratic seat. No Republican candidate has filed for candidacy, so the winner of the Democratic primary would be the presumptive winner of the seat.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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