CAMPAIGN 2012:

House candidates hoarding cash in critical Mountain West battlegrounds

Congressional candidates in a half-dozen Western states are charging ahead to their respective primaries -- many now just two months away -- with incumbents and challengers alike exceeding the $1 million mark, according to recently filed campaign finance reports.

Democrats made significant gains in the Mountain West in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles, but Republicans came roaring back in 2010, and the region should be a major battleground in the fight to control the House of Representatives next year.

Here is a look at some of the competitive House races in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah, along with the latest fundraising data -- organized by state.

Arizona

There are three open seat races looming in the Grand Canyon State, including the new House seat Arizona gained in the decennial reapportionment process.

A half-dozen candidates have already emerged for the August primary in the expansive 1st District seat, which includes most of the state's northeastern corner.

Among the most prominent candidates are ex-state Sen. Jonathan Paton (R) and ex-Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D), who was ousted by Rep. Paul Gosar (R). Gosar is seeking re-election in the more Republican-friendly 4th District.

Ex-state Rep. Bill Konopnicki (R) could also opt to join the race and has until the end of May to file.

Kirkpatrick leads the money chase, with $967,000 raised to date, including $309,000 in the first quarter of this year. She banked $658,000 at the end of March.

Paton has raised $229,000 to date, after adding $197,000 to his coffers in the first three months of the year. He reported $156,000 in the bank, along with a $12,000 debt.

There is also competition to fill the House seat vacated by ex-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) earlier this year. Giffords resigned to focus on her recovery from a brain injury after being shot in the head during an assassination attempt in January 2011.

In addition to the November election, the state hosts a special primary today to fill the remainder of Giffords' term. The special general election will occur in June.

Former Giffords aide Ron Barber, who was also wounded in the incident in which Giffords was shot, is the only Democrat seeking the special election nomination.

Barber will face the winner of a four-way GOP contest featuring state Sen. Frank Antenori, Iraq War veteran and failed 2010 nominee Jesse Kelly, retired Air Force officer Martha McSally and sports journalist Dave Sitton. Those same GOP candidates are campaigning for the regular fall election, as well.

Barber will face competition for the August primary for the new 2nd District seat, including state Rep. Matt Heinz, nonprofit executive Nomiki Konst and businessman Monty Nafoosi.

According to his pre-special primary campaign finance report, Barber has raised $55,000 and banked $46,000 as of late March.

Sitton reported raising $261,000 during the same period and retained $118,000. He is followed by Kelly, who raised $211,000 and banked $49,000. McSally raised $133,000 during the same period and retained $44,000.

Antenori raised $36,000 during the same period but reported a cash-on-hand balance of minus $3,000.

Another half-dozen candidates will compete to claim the new Phoenix-area 9th District seat, which both parties are vying to claim as their own -- though it appears to lean Democratic.

Among the current Republican candidates are businessman Travis Grantham, Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker and former CIA officer Leah Campos Schandlbauer.

Grantham reported raising $103,000 through the end of March, including $17,000 in the first quarter. But Grantham banked $201,000 after loaning the campaign $190,000.

Parker reported raising $30,000 in the same period but banked $31,000 at the end of March. Parker reported a $14,000 debt to various vendors. Schandlbauer did not file a report with the Federal Election Commission.

Democratic contenders include former state Democratic Chairman Andrei Cherny, state Senate Minority Leader David Schapira and ex-state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.

Cherny established himself as an early front-runner after he reported raising $431,000 in the first quarter and retained nearly all of it, $394,000 at the end of March. Cherny reported no debt.

Schapira and Sinema did not file reports with FEC.

Colorado

In the Centennial State, Democrats are hoping to pick off three incumbent Republicans in November, under a favorable map adopted by a state judge after the Colorado Legislature failed to agree on new congressional lines.

Among the top targets is Rep. Scott Tipton (R), a member of the Natural Resources Committee, who won his first term by defeating three-term Democratic Rep. John Salazar (D) in 2010.

Tipton saw his 3rd District seat, which encompasses western Colorado and Pueblo, become more competitive.

The Republican, who will face state House Minority Leader Sal Pace (D) in the general election, raised $1.2 million for his re-election bid through March. He added $368,000 to his coffers in the first quarter and reported $813,000 in the bank.

Pace continues to lag behind Tipton's fundraising, reporting $274,000 in the first quarter, for a total of $750,000 to date. He reported $521,000 on hand at the end of March and no debt.

Republican Rep. Mike Coffman likewise faces a greater challenge in 2012 as his 6th District seat adds Democratic-leaning Aurora to its complement of southern Denver suburbs.

But Coffman, also a Natural Resources Committee member, leads significantly in the money chase with state Rep. Joe Miklosi (D).

Coffman raised $530,000 in the first quarter to bring his total to nearly $1.2 million to date. His campaign reported an even greater cash on hand advantage with $1.4 million in the bank at the end of March.

Miklosi's campaign reported $338,000 on hand at the end of March after raising $235,000 in the first quarter. He has raised $469,000 to date.

Colorado Republicans are also hoping to knock off a Democratic incumbent, eyeing the 7th District seat held by Rep. Ed Perlmutter.

Perlmutter is expected to retain his seat -- despite the loss of Democratic territory when Aurora shifted to the 6th District -- but he could face off with Joe Coors Jr. (R), a magnate of the brewing behemoth.

The veteran Democrat has raised $1.3 million to date, including $364,000 in the first quarter of 2012. He banked $810,000 at the end of March and reported no debts.

Since announcing his bid, Coors has raised $477,000 -- including numerous donations from other Coors family members. The potential self-funder has loaned his campaign $15,000 to date and retained $290,000 at the end of March.

Although Rep. Cory Gardner (R) saw his 4th District seat -- which includes Fort Collins and much of eastern Colorado -- grow safer in redistricting, the freshman lawmaker continues to outpace his highly regarded Democratic challenger, state Senate President Brandon Shaffer.

Gardner, an Energy and Commerce Committee member, reported raising $1.4 million to date, including $279,000 in the first quarter. He reports no debts and had $875,000 on hand at the end of March.

Shaffer raised less than half of Gardner's haul in the first quarter, adding $114,000 to his coffers. He has raised $406,0900 to date and banked $209,000 at the end of March.

Montana

Republican Steve Daines stands out in the crush of candidates vying to replace Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) -- who is challenging Sen. Jon Tester (D) for his Senate seat rather than seeking re-election to the House -- having raised more than $1.1 million to date.

Daines, a businessman who made a failed bid for the state's lieutenant governor's office in 2008, reported $726,000 in the bank after raising $171,000 in the first quarter.

The technology executive is expected to easily win the June 5 Republican primary against Marine veteran Vincent Melkus. Melkus has not filed any reports, according to the FEC.

Among Democrats, state Senate Minority Whip Kim Gillan leads the money chase, but the field is crowded with seven candidates.

Gillan reported raising $243,000 to date, including $67,000 in the first quarter. She has banked $116,000 and reports no debt.

State Rep. Franke Wilmer trails closely, having raised $225,000 after bringing in $70,000 in the first quarter. Wilmer had banked $90,000 as of March but reported a $7,500 debt.

Technology executive Diane Smith reported $136,000 after raising $36,000 in the first quarter; Missoula City Councilman Dave Strohmaier reported $100,000 after raising $28,000 in the first quarter; attorney Rob Stutz claimed $20,000 after raising $7,000 in the first quarter.

Montana's Secretary of State lists both real estate agent Sam Rankin, who lost a bid for the Democratic nomination in 2010 with 5 percent of the vote, and Jason Ward as registered candidates for the contest, but neither has filed with the FEC.

Nevada

The Silver State gained a House seat in the decennial reapportionment process, creating an expansive new 4th District that stretches from Las Vegas to the Cherry Creek Range.

State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford (D) is favored to win the Democratic-leaning seat and will face the winner of a nine-candidate GOP field after the June 12 primary.

Horsford has raised $606,000 to date, including $265,000 in the first three months of 2012. He banked $464,000 at the end of March.

The state lawmaker will most likely face off with state Sen. Barbara Cegavske (R) or businessman Danny Tarkanian (R), whose prior bids include a failed campaign for the GOP Senate nomination in 2010.

Tarkanian, the son of legendary former University of Nevada, Las Vegas, basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, reported raising $346,000 in the first quarter, his only report to date, and retained $294,000 in the bank at the end of March.

Cegavske trailed with $195,000 raised to date, including $94,000 in the first quarter. Her campaign reported $75,000 on hand in the same period.

Farther south in the state, freshman Rep. Joe Heck (R) is looking to defend the redrawn 3rd District seat, after winning his first term by defeating then-Rep. Dina Titus (D).

Heck faces a primary challenge from Navy veteran Chris Dyer before he competes with the winner of a crowded Democratic primary where State Assembly Speaker John Oceguera is expected to emerge on top of a six-candidate field.

Heck has raised $1.4 million to date, after adding $278,000 to his coffers in the first quarter. He reported $1 million on hand at the end of March.

The FEC does not list a campaign committee under Dyer's name.

After raising $376,000 in donations in the first quarter, Oceguera more than doubled his cumulative total to $613,000. He retained $479,000 on hand at the end of March.

Titus is seeking election in the redrawn 1st District seat, which she is expected to win. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) is giving up the Las Vegas-based seat to run for the Senate.

New Mexico

Cash is flowing into the open seat race to replace Rep. Martin Heinrich (D) in the Albuquerque, N.M.-based 1st District.

State Sen. Eric Griego continued to widen his money lead over his top rival in the Democratic primary, former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez.

Griego reported a haul of $275,000 in the first quarter, according to his latest campaign finance report, bringing his total to $709,000 to date.

Griego, who won early endorsements from the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund and the Sierra Club, banked $322,000 at the end of March and is the only Democrat in the three-way primary to report no debt.

Chavez raised $153,000 in the first quarter, making his fundraising total $539,000 through the same period. He reported $201,000 on hand, but also carries a $15,000 debt from a personal loan to his campaign.

Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) now closely trails Chavez's totals, reporting $497,000 raised through March, including $195,000 in the first quarter.

Grisham, who made a failed bid for the Democratic nomination in 2008 against Heinrich, banked $345,000 at the end of March. She reported $35,000 in debt from personal loans to her campaign, including a new $15,000 loan she made in the first quarter.

In the Republican primary, former state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones (R) appears likely to be the only candidate on the ballot in the June 5 primary.

The New Mexico Telegram reported yesterday that retired Army Sgt. Gary Smith was ruled ineligible to appear on the state's ballot after he failed to secure enough valid petition signatures.

Arnold-Jones won a majority vote at the state GOP's pre-primary convention last month, defeating both Smith and Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis, who subsequently dropped out of the race.

Arnold-Jones, who made an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 2010, reported raising $55,000 in the first quarter and has raised $130,000 to date. She banked $38,000 at the end of March and reported a $5,000 debt.

Smith has not filed a 2012 campaign finance report.

Heinrich is seeking the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D), who leads the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Bingaman is retiring at the end of the 112th Congress rather than seeking a sixth term.

Utah

Rep. Jim Matheson (D) is hoping to save his congressional career by winning the new 4th District seat.

After the GOP-led Utah Legislature dismantled his current 2nd District seat in the decennial redistricting process, Matheson, an Energy panel member, opted for the central Utah district, which includes Salt Lake and Utah counties.

Matheson continued to outraise his would-be Republican competitors in the first quarter, adding $340,000 to his coffers, for a total of $1.2 million raised to date.

In advance of the state's party caucuses this Saturday, Matheson reported he had $972,000 on hand.

Among Matheson's potential Republican challengers are state Reps. Stephen Sandstrom and Carl Wimmer and Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love.

Sandstrom reported the largest cash-on-hand total among the GOP crowd at the end of March with $131,000 after loaning his campaign nearly $285,000 to date. He has raised $16,000 to date, including $9,200 in the first quarter.

Wimmer has raised the most cash among the trio, reporting $295,000 to date, including $92,000 in the first quarter. He reported $114,000 on hand, and continues to carry a $1,600 debt for personal loans to the campaign.

Love raised $82,000 through the end of March and retained $39,000 on hand.

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