Former U.S. Army Maj. Tommy Sowers reported raising $204,510 since creating his campaign committee about a month ago. That's more than Emerson's last five Democratic challengers combined raised for their campaigns and the most since then-Circuit Judge Tony Heckemeyer raised $375,689 for his campaign in 1998.
Sowers, who teaches in the History and Political Science Department of the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Mo., plans to focus on economic issues in the 28-county Eighth Congressional District as he works to unseat Emerson, spokesman Jonathan Feifs said Tuesday. The Eighth District includes six of the 10 poorest counties in Missouri and, like the rest of the nation, has seen a large increase in unemployment during the past 18 months.
"Tommy Sowers is a proven leader that realizes this distrct cannot continue going the direction it has," Feifs said. "He will fight for the people and represent their interests and try to turn around the economic conditions here."
Sowers announced his fundraising totals two days before quarterly finance reports are due at the Federal Election Commission. Emerson's campaign declined to release its totals, but through the first six months of the year Emerson raised $247,730 and had $171,582 in the bank June 30.
The Emerson campaign also declined to comment on Sowers' fundraising.
Sowers isn't the only challenger trying to unseat Emerson, who first won election in 1996 following the death of her husband, U.S. Rep. Bill Emerson. Bob Parker of Raymondville, Mo., a farmer and rancher, is seeking to wrest the Republican nomination from Emerson in August. Parker has not announced his fundraising figures.
An Emerson -- either Bill Emerson or Jo Ann Emerson -- has won every Congressional race in Southeast Missouri since 1980. With Democrats unable to find candidates capable of mounting a competitive campaign, Jo Ann Emerson has received at least 71 percent of the vote in each of the last four elections. In 2000, she received 69.3 percent.
And while Democrats have raised a mere $146,312 total over the past five election cycles, Emerson has taken in more than $5.1 million. Of that total, 56.9 percent came from political action committees, most of which represent groups that lobby Congress.
The contributions that have fueled Sowers' strong quarter of fundraising include money from more than 400 people from 37 states. Many of those contributors are current or former members of the armed forces. Sowers was in the U.S. Army for 11 years, including two tours of duty in Iraq and time as an assistant professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
"This strong initial fundraising helps to ensure that my campaign has the resources we need to win," Sowers said. "But we can't and won't slow down now. We know it is going to be a long, tough fight. I'm running against an incumbent who is a former insurance lobbyist who has always filled her campaign coffers with plenty of lobbyist dollars."
The state Democratic Party leadership praised Sowers for the strong fundraising effort, the first step to a serious challenge to an incumbent.
"These numbers demonstrate peoples' belief that a strong leader who served his country in the U.S. Army is exactly the kind of leader we need to send to Congress to serve his fellow residents in the Eighth District," Craig Hosmer, Missouri Democratic Party chairman, said in the relese issued by Sowers' campaign.
Cape Girardeau, Mo.