By Marni Pyke
He's got big bucks and she has big dreams. Despite a roughly $2 million gap between the war chests of Democrat Leslie Coolidge and Republican Congressman Peter Roskam, the political newcomer is undaunted.
Federal election records for the first quarter show Coolidge, a Barrington Hills accountant, with about $2,000 in the bank. Roskam, the No. 4 Republican in the U.S. House is in command of more than $2 million in spending money for the Nov. 6 election. This includes $1.98 million cash on hand in Roskam's campaign fund and $37,784 cash on hand in his PAC, the Republican Operation to Secure and Keep a Majority, or ROSKAM.
With appearances on Fox News and local radio raising his profile, plus a long tenure as state lawmaker and now congressman, the Wheaton attorney is a formidable opponent, even without the cash.
But Coolidge notes that the 6th District isn't Roskam's familiar stamping ground. Redistricting by state Democrats transformed the DuPage-centered district into a gerrymandered monster that sprawls across Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties.
"I don't think we'll ever have as much money as Peter Roskam," Coolidge said. "Even if we were very successful in fundraising, I assume he'll have help from the Republican Party; we need to make up for that in grass roots."
Spokeswoman Stephanie Genco said Roskam "has and will continue to work to introduce himself to the new communities in the 6th District and represent their concerns. Our district is 75 percent new territory, so we've been reaching out, hosting community events and meeting with local leaders."
Records show Coolidge spent $149,000 in the primary. She lent her campaign about $89,371 and raised $61,665 in contributions, including more than $26,000 from the Democratic Party organization ActBlue.
But to beat Roskam, Coolidge will need sources other than herself.
Right now, "we're very focused on fundraising," Coolidge said. "We're calling potential donors and doing regular phone banking. People have started knocking on doors.
So far about 150 volunteers have signed up, Coolidge said, who are "raring to go."
Roskam is chief deputy majority whip and a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. His campaign fund, Roskam for Congress, pulled in about $176,057 last quarter, according to Federal Election Commission records.
His major contributions come from financial firms, the insurance industry, lobbyists and health professionals, according to the nonprofit Open Secrets website.
During the 2011-2012 election cycle, Open Secrets data indicates Roskam's top donations so far include: $20,000 from Edison International, the electric utility company; $17,500 from investment bankers Goldman Sachs; $12,100 from DaVita Inc., a health-services PAC; $11,000 from New York Life Insurance; and $10,900 from Adams Street Partners, an investment firm.
Roskam's full coffers allow him to be a player in other politicians' campaigns. He gave $62,250 of "excess funds" to the National Republican Congressional Campaign in March. The ROSKAM political action committee gave multiple contributions to GOP candidates across the country, such as $5,000 to California Congressman Dan Lungren in March.
"(Roskam) is committed to helping other members with their re-election efforts, especially in Illinois," Genco said via email.
The 6th Congressional District includes portions of south Lake County, southeast McHenry County, east Kane County, northwest Cook and DuPage County.