Safe Senator Shifts to Raise Money for Safe Colleague

Nathan L. Gonzales June 10, 2016 · 9:03 AM EDT

Sen. Ron Wyden isn’t shy about raising money , even though he isn’t in any danger of losing re-election. At least now the Oregon Democrat has shifted some of that effort elsewhere, except it’s for a colleague who is also in a safe race.  

“They think they’ve got a shot in Vermont,” says the subject line of a June 1 email from Wyden’s campaign.  

“There are few senators who fight as fiercely for progress and for our rights as my friend, Sen. Patrick Leahy,” reads the message attributed to the senator. “Now Vermont Republican businessman Scott Milne just announced he’s going to try to take Pat out: Chip in $9.”

As the email points out, Milne held Gov. Peter Shumlin to a 46-45 percent victory in 2014, but this is an entirely different race. Milne is a late entry and has only just started to raise money while Leahy has served in the Senate for more than 40 years and had nearly $2.9 million in the bank as of March 31. According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, Milne raised $278,729 for his gubernatorial campaign.   

Oregon hasn’t elected a Republican to the Senate in more than a dozen years, but it’s been nearly 16 years for Vermont. Republican Jim Jeffords won re-election to a third term in 2000 but promptly switched parties and gave Democrats control of the chamber the next year.  

While Wyden is focused on Leahy running up the margin in Vermont, Democrats have their eyes on up to a dozen takeover targets where challengers could use the money against stronger Republicans. The party is also defending the open seat in Nevada as it tries to win control of the Senate.  

Back in the Beaver State, Wyden had nearly $7.3 million in the bank on April 27 compared to GOP nominee Mark Callahan’s stash of $6,830 at the same point. That’s barely enough for decent season tickets to the up-and-coming Portland Trail Blazers.   

But it’s a good thing Wyden had money for his primary. He fell short of 90 percent in 2010 and dipped to 84 percent this year. Apparently incumbents can never be too cautious.  

We rate the Oregon and Vermont Senate races as Safe for the Democrats.