Three-term Assemblyman Jared Huffman and political newcomer Stacey Lawson emerged Wednesday as the leading fund-raisers in a highly competitive race for the North Coast seat in Congress.
Huffman, D-San Rafael, reported $586,131 in donations last year, retaining his top spot in campaign cash.
Lawson, a San Rafael businesswoman making her first run for public office, collected $455,959.
A third Democrat, Marin activist Norman Solomon, picked up $311,817 last year, and no other candidate had more than $115,000, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Lawson's showing was a surprise because she does not have a political track record like Huffman, nor the connection to the Democrats' liberal bloc that is Solomon's strong suit.
They are competing in a rare open race for Congress created by Petaluma Democratic Rep. Lynn Woolsey's decision to retire this year.
Lawson said Wednesday she had "out-raised the entire field" since entering the campaign in August, turning it into "a two-person race" between herself and Huffman.
With the election five months away, campaign contributions are an indicator of political momentum, as well as the ability to reach voters in a sprawling district from Marin County to the Oregon border.
Winning in the 350-mile long 2nd Congressional District is expected to cost more than $1 million.
The top two vote-getters in the June 5 primary, regardless of party, will compete in the November general election if no one captures a majority of the votes.
Huffman's track record and fund-raising lead qualify him as the front-runner, setting up a "race for second place," said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.
Solomon's success hinges on expanding his liberal support, <NO1><NO>while Lawson is "the stealth candidate: you don't know a lot about her, she's new to politics, she raised a lot of money," McCuan said.
Huffman, who is termed out of the Assembly, said his fund-raising is accelerating and his campaign is "firing on all cylinders."
Lawson's individual donations of $200 or more came heavily from people outside California, ranging from New York to Texas. They also included contributors from San Francisco and the East Bay.
Those contributions come from her networks in business, technology and education, Lawson said, reflecting widespread interest in her campaign "to restore middle class prosperity."
Huffman's donations come almost entirely from California and largely from Marin and Sonoma counties. "We have support from the people we're going to be asking to vote for us," he said.
Solomon <NO1><NO>described a "synergy" between his donations from 2,900 individuals, his 745 campaign volunteers and a series of fund-raising house parties.
Huffman and Lawson have $444,519 and $355,688 in cash on hand through Dec. 31, respectively, compared with $72,401 for Solomon.
"Cash on hand is absolutely critical," McCuan said.
Solomon said his campaign has been running for months and has amassed an "inventory" of campaign material.
A fourth Democrat, Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams, reported $113,642 in contributions.
Dan Roberts of Tiburon, the lone Republican filing a campaign finance report, had $113,851, including $110,000 in loans to his own campaign.
Tiffany Renee, a Petaluma city councilwoman. reported $12,262 in campaign receipts, with $905 cash on hand at the end of last year.
Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park and Cotati are not included in the district, which has no incumbent because of the decision by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, to retire this year.