Emerson challenger raises about $200,000 in month

Monday, October 19, 2009

Oct. 13 was an unusual day for U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's re-election team.

That's the day Democratic challenger Tommy Sowers, a former U.S. Army major now teaching at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Mo., reported he had raised more than $200,000 for his campaign in a little more than a month. That was $84,000 more than Emerson's campaign raised over the three months ending Sept. 30.

And with Emerson's campaign overhead of $100,298 for the period, her $120,321 raised added little to her bank account.

With 13 months to go until the 2010 election, Emerson had $186,394 on hand.

Sowers, meanwhile, spent $15,163, leaving him $189,347 in the bank.

A Republican challenger, farmer and rancher Bob Parker of Raymondville, Mo. has raised $2,769.

No one associated with Emerson's campaign would comment, and Emerson declined a request to be interviewed about her re-election effort.

With the strong fundraising report -- Sowers claimed more than 400 individual contributors and listed 213 who gave enough to have their names included in the report -- Sowers collected more money in a month than all of Emerson's last five challengers raised in total.

Of Emerson's named individual contributors, 63 were from within the 28-county 8th Congressional District and 30 were from outside. For Sowers, 24 donors live within the district and 189 are from outside.

Emerson's outside-the-district contributions include many from other parts of Missouri. Sowers' outside-the-district contributions were provided in part by current and former fellow Army officers, but he also called on people he's met as a result of that service. He received a $2,400 contribution from Lorne Michaels, the NBC television producer who created "Saturday Night Live," who Sowers said he met when he invited Michaels to speak to a class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

While Emerson had more contributors within the district, Sowers' in-district givers wrote bigger checks. In total, Emerson raised $28,013 from named contributors within the district while Sowers took in $27,050.

"I am very humbled by the support that has come in," Sowers said. "Unlike my opponent, I have got no choice but to work very hard at this."

The Emerson campaign's refusal to talk about the finance reports doesn't diminish the immense challenge of defeating a longtime incumbent, Sowers said.

"There are very few incumbents out there who are ever really scared of a challenger," he said. "One of the problems of the system is that all challengers are underdogs. Congress has one of the lowest approval ratings ever, but we re-electe them at a very high rate."

Economic issues will be a central theme of the campaign, Sowers said. "People want to live and they want to work in these communities, but if the trends continue as they have under Emerson they worry that their communities, their way of life, is in jeopardy."

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent addresses:

Cape Girardeau, MO

Rolla, MO

Raymondville, MO

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