Assemblyman Jared Huffman has maintained his fundraising lead in the crowded race for the North Coast seat in Congress that seems likely to set a campaign spending record of $3 million or more for the region.
Huffman, D-San Rafael, reported $864,567 in campaign receipts through March 31.
Political newcomer Stacey Lawson, a San Rafael businesswoman and educator, collected $740,797, and a third Democrat, Marin activist Norman Solomon, had $526,802, according to Federal Election Commission records.
With more than $2 million in campaign funding for the top three alone, total spending for the primary election is likely to top $3 million, said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.
"We've never seen dollars like this concentrated among three people," he said.
If two Democrats emerge as winners in the primary, spending will soar far higher by the November general election, McCuan said.
"Voters are just now turning their attention to this race," he said.
Spending in most recent North Coast congressional campaigns has been restrained by the fact that Democratic incumbents rarely faced a serious primary challenge and easily beat Republican opponents.
An exception was in 2006, when Rep. Lynn Woolsey of Petaluma faced a Democratic primary election challenge from Joe Nation and spent $1.4 million. Nation, who then held the Assembly seat now occupied by Huffman, spent nearly $720,000 and received 34 percent of the vote.
"We're excited," said Huffman, who is termed out of the Legislature this year. "We're ahead on the money."