Dems outraise GOP congressional incumbents in Miami

WASHINGTON — Democrats for the second fundraising period in a row have outpaced Miami's three Republican members of Congress, suggesting an increasingly competitive challenge for the incumbents.

Former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez reported taking in $603,318 and closing the quarter with $1.1 million cash on hand. Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart raised $481,558 and closed with $1.75 million.

Challenger Joe Garcia raised $531,049 to Mario Diaz-Balart's $392,103, though Garcia, too, trails in cash on hand, $700,000 to Diaz-Balart's $1 million.

And Annette Taddeo raised $324,829 -- a sum that includes a personal loan -- to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's $300,929. But Ros-Lehtinen has nearly $1.9 million on hand.

The sums come as the races are drawing increasing attention from the national parties: Martinez and Garcia have major backing from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is seeking to expand the party's majority in the House.

And the Diaz-Balarts -- who have faced only token opposition since first getting elected -- are getting a similar boost from House Republicans.

Democrats sought to claim the momentum, even as Lincoln's campaign treasurer said the campaign was ``exceeding all our fundraising goals.''

Carlos Curbelo, a spokesman for the Diaz-Balart brothers' campaign, said the Democrats' lead was not a surprise ``when you have powerful leaders of the extreme left like (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi and Charles Rangel pumping thousands of dollars into these campaigns.''

Pelosi's top lieutenants have contributed to all three Democrats and Rangel, a New York congressman, raised money for Garcia and contributed to Taddeo.

But the Diaz-Balarts also benefitted from a powerful fundraiser: President Bush, who in a visit last month to Naples, raised more than $600,000 for the brothers and the Republican Party of Florida.

Martinez's campaign said the figure makes him one of the top House fundraisers in the country -- a boast echoed by national Democrats.

For example, Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, a reliable fundraising powerhouse who is looking to defend the formerly GOP seat he won in 2006, raised $413,847 during the three month quarter -- a sum he said puts him ``among the top fundraisers in the U.S. House.''

Martinez's campaign claims much of his support is from Republicans.

''We have attracted such great support from registered Republicans because they know that I'm able to work across party lines to improve the economy, lower the cost of healthcare and gas, and help get us out of Iraq,'' Martinez said.

Lincoln Diaz-Balart criticized Martinez for failing to disclose the names and identities of various donors he said contributed a total of $378,000 to the Democrat's campaign.

Garcia said most of his contributions are from small donors who gave his campaign $200 or less.

''That so many people have donated to our campaign shows that Joe Garcia's message of putting South Florida first and restoring common-sense solutions to Washington is resonating,'' said campaign spokeswoman Melissa Agudelo.

Garcia's contributions include $1,000 from Sergio Bendixen, the Democratic pollster whose recent poll showed Garcia and Martinez within striking distance of the Diaz-Balarts. The firm's vice president, Fernand Amandi, also contributed $500 to Garcia.

The reports show contributions from a number of leading Democrats, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel, the former chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Though Ros-Lehtinen appears in the Bendixen poll to have a comfortable lead over Taddeo, her fundraising report suggests she's taking the challenge seriously. Ros-Lehtinen raised almost twice as much as her first fundraising quarter.

Taddeo contributed her own money to the campaign for the second time -- her report shows a personal loan to her campaign -- this time for $170,000. She has $457,105 on hand.