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Pelosi's Favorites

Between early May and late June House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) identified six candidates she considers to be the top Democratic challengers to GOP incumbents. She did so by giving them cash for their campaigns.

Pelosi's largesse toward Democratic candidates is nothing out of the ordinary. Through her leadership political action committee (PAC to the Future), Pelosi gave out $282,500 to House candidates in the first six months of 2007, according to the latest filing with the Federal Election Commission. About $260,000 of that went to Democratic incumbents in potentially difficult re-election battles, with the lion's share going to the 42 lawmakers elected in 2006.

But on June 27 Pelosi also dished out a handful of $2,500 checks to five candidates hoping to unseat Republican incumbents, signifying these as the challengers she's most concerned about at this early stage of the campaign.

Almost two months earlier Pelosi cut her first check to a challenger, in the amount of $5,000 from PAC to the Future to Charlie Brown, who almost knocked off incumbent John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.) last fall. Pelosi's gift to Brown's campaign came two weeks after the FBI raided Dolittle's home in connection with a corruption investigation.

Two of the other top six challengers are also facing rematches from near misses in 2006: Dan Maffei, the former Capitol Hill staffer who nearly knocked 18-year veteran Rep. James T. Walsh (R-N.Y.), and Larry Kissell, who lost to Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) by less than 400 votes.

As the 2-year cycle goes forward and races become more defined, Pelosi will no doubt start giving to more challengers as well as those candidates running in open-seat races vacated by retiring lawmakers.

To date, here are the top challengers Pelosi is targeting through donations from PAC to the Future, the incumbent and the percentage the incumbent received in 2006:

Kay Barnes Sam Graves (Mo.) 62
John Boccieri Ralph Regula (Ohio) 58
Charlie Brown John T. Doolittle (Calif.) 49
Steve Driehaus Steve Chabot (Ohio) 52
Dan Maffei James T. Walsh (N.Y. 51
Larry Kissell Robin Hayes (N.C.) 50

By Paul Kane  |  July 30, 2007; 3:59 PM ET
Categories:  Dem. Leaders  
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