August 14th, 2010
12:25 PM ET
4 years ago

CNN 100: Holden on to his money in PA 17th race

 The CNN 100 takes a look at the top 100 House races, from now until Election Day.
The CNN 100 takes a look at the top 100 House races, from now until Election Day.

Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:

Pennsylvania 17 – Democratic Rep. Tim Holden is seeking a 9th term
Primary: May 18, 2010
Location: East-Central Pennsylvania
Days until Election Day: 80

(CNN) - Perhaps one of the more telling factors in how a campaign is doing might be how much cash it raises – and has at its disposal.

For state Sen. David Argall, the Republican running in Pennsylvania's 17th congressional race, cash flow is a big problem in his fight against incumbent Democratic Rep. Tim Holden.

Argall's campaign raised over $204,693 and had $28,929 cash on hand as of the end of June, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Holden, meanwhile, far outpaces his opponent - raising $938,827 in the same period and having $884,374 cash on hand.

Perhaps that is why House Minority Leader John Boehner held a fundraiser in Harrisburg this week for the Republican's campaign.

But money isn't the only problem Argall faces.

Holden, who comes from a coal-mining family and was the sheriff of Schuylkill County, is popular in the Republican-heavy part of the state. He's been a member of the House since winning election in 1992 in Pennsylvania's 6th Congressional District (redistricting in 2001 forced him to run against GOP Rep. George Gekas in the newly created 17th district).

Economically, the 17th district has historically been based around coal miners in the eastern part of the district and farmers in the west, but the area around Harrisburg is now home to a large number of state government workers. Those workers, plus a majority-black population, make Harrisburg a Democratic base that sometimes offsets the Republican strength in Lebanon, Lancaster and York counties.

In 2008, Holden won with 64 percent of the vote against his Republican challenger; then-Sen. Barack Obama only had 48 percent of the vote to John McCain's 51 percent in the presidential race - seven points lower than the majority President George W. Bush piled up in 2004.

Holden's moderate-to-conservative politics play well with voters here: The pro-life, pro-Second Amendment congressman is a member of the fiscally-conservative Blue Dog Democratic coalition and was ranked by National Journal as one of the top 15 most conservative Democrats in the House.

He is the current No. 2 Democrat on the House Agricultural Committee – a committee he has served on since 1993. Holden supported Obama's economic stimulus package and, in general, many of his party's pieces of legislation.

However, he voted against the health care reform bill, as well as the cap-and-trade laden climate change bill.

Argall is hoping to ride the wave of anti-incumbency this year, attacking Holden's vote on the stimulus plan, among other things. He is a deficit hawk who wants to rein in government spending, and supports repealing the health care reform law.

But one area that Argall will undoubtedly be criticized for involves his vote in 2006 for a state legislative pay raise; he has since apologized for that vote.

Holden remains popular, but this is a tough year for incumbents -especially Democrats. So far, Argall's campaign has taken to linking Holden to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party. Argall hopes that strategy and his own conservative ideology will play well with voters in the district and be enough to overcome his opponent's fundraising advantage.


Filed under: 2010 • CNN 100 • Pennsylvania
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