Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Quick Look at the 13th Congressional District

This is just a quick look at the 13th congressional district, between incumbent Democrat Allyson Schwartz and Republican challenger Raj Bhakta. This is a lopsided race, especially considering that the has changed hands between parties within the last decade. A real GOP contender would be cause for some alarm, but, happy day for her, that isn't the case this time around.

On one hand we have Rep. Schwartz who is known for her fundraising abilities. Living up to her reputation she has, as of April 26, $1,331,222, 81% of it coming from individuals, 60% from in state. While some of her recent votes (bankruptcy, eminent domain, and so on) have disturbed the progressive netroots, she has a solid reputation.

One the other hand we have Raj Bhakta, who has, as of April 26, $78,806 on hand, 99% of it from individuals, 88% of it from out of state. In addition to confessing to 2 DUI's, he has decided to run his campaign as a reality show. On the news section of his website he includes this statement:

Right now, the former star of The Apprentice 2 is hiring between 50 and 100 young people to work for his campaign this summer. He will pay them a weekly stipend and provide housing for them. Heading into the fall campaign, he will select a smaller, undetermined number of those aides to stay on the payroll. If he wins, he’ll hire the three best campaign workers for his congressional staff. (from Northeast Times 5/04/06)

I don't know that this method would provide better staffers than some of the party hacks I've encountered in congressional offices but it would surely provide far worse than some of the truly dedicated staff I've encountered.

However, considering that Bhakta is probably not the most serious opponent that Rep. Schwartz could have, her recent email to supporters including the following passage is suprising:

But here in the 13th Congressional District, the Republican establishment has cleared the primary field for my opponent. Today they will nominate a candidate who has made clear his unyielding support of the failed policies of President Bush. In his eagerness to gain favor with the Republican right wing, he told the Washington Post, "I am VERY HAPPY with the second term agenda."

The Republicans are hoping to win this seat back and they are using any means necessary to ensure their success. But you can help me prepare for whatever they throw at me.

She asked for contributions. The $1.3 million she is sitting on is, at present, a war chest. It's certainly not being spent on her campaign website which remains primarily a place for contributions. There is very little content. Compare it to her congressional site (see link on her name above). If she doesn't intend to spend any of it on her own campaign, perhaps she would be willing to share the wealth among fellow Democrats challenging incumbent Repulicans, who, with proper funding, have a good chance of winning (hint, hint, hint) or any of the state level races being run in her district.

Just a thought.

[Update: taking the advice of one of the comments on this post I looked at the expenditure column on Schwartz's Open Secrets page. In 2005 she donated over $40,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. In 2006 she did donate $2000 to Lois Murphy. There are similar donations to Bob Casey and a number of candidates in ohter states, and smaller donations to Philly area groups. I would still like to see donations to other individual candidates in the area. These may be filtered through the DCCC but, honestly, I don't trust them very much.]

Sources: Opensecrets (


Anonymous said...

It may not seem that way, but Schwartz has dialed down her fundraising operation, relatively speaking. On the expenditures side, Schwartz has already sent $2000 to both Lois Murphy and Bob Casey. She also contributed to Northeast Philly Demcrats, as well as numerous federal candidates nationwide.

I suspect we'll see more of this balancing act for the rest of the cycle, with Schwartz raising additional funds which will be deemed superfluous in the short term, while making more contributions to others as it becomes more apparent that her '06 race will be a laugher.

In building both her war chest and her list of indebted allies, Schwartz is positioning herself for her next real race in 2010. With press releases like her anti-Mumia blast last week, it should be pretty clear that that next race won't be for PA-13 or for a House leadership post.

As for Bhakta, a huge chunk of his money appears to have come from wealthy relatives in the hotel/hospitality industry. Judging from his pre-primary report, that source may be starting to dry up. Given that the Montco R's thought it was a good idea to back this joker, the prosepct of them losing "the courthouse" in '07 appears to be very real.

Anonymous said...

Schwartz constituent here. I agree she should win in a walk. I'll also point out she developed and has a very interesting system where she does robo-calls to keep her constituents informed about major issues before Congress and to keep them apprised of upcoming townhall meetings in the 13th. I don't know of another representative who does anything like that. IMO, this telephone system gives
her an advantage.

As for picking "Raj", there's a pretty big Indian population up here in the NE so I'd imagine that was part of his appeal to the GOP.

AboveAvgJane said...

I looked Schwartz up as a donor in Open Secrets, too, and didn't see much from either her or her husband, considering how much she has. Maybe there is more at the state level. I didn't check there. I do know that she is still actively raising money, dialing for dollars and so on. Given what she has I don't think a functioning web site and showing up at a few fundraisers for other candidates (which she may be doing but how would we know?) isn't a lot to ask.

The post wasn't intended as a smackdown. I do think well of her as a legislator, although I haven't been happy with some of her votes. She does a good job generally and I like her.

Anonymous said...


I'm not sure if you're checking the expenditures section of her OpenSecrets entry. It lists much more information than what shows up in a "Donor Lookup" search under her name. (The lack of symmetry between the two areas seems like a site glitch.)

Or maybe you did see this section, and still consider her contributions lacking. That's not an outrageous argument.

AboveAvgJane said...

Looking Italian,

thanks! I posted an update. There were a lot of out of state donations and a boatload to the DCCC but very little in state or locally (not in notable amounts anyway).

Anonymous said...

I agree that losing the courthouse in '07 is in the GOP's future. I have to think that is the real reason DA Bruce Castor took a pass on this race. He is the only real "star" Montgomery County has and the GOP will need him to stave off the dems next year.