WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Paul Coverdell's re-election campaign is on a pace to outspend by far the victorious 1996 bid of Georgia Democratic colleague Sen. Max Cleland and his own successful 1992 race for the Senate.
Mr. Coverdell, R-Ga., raised just more than $1 million during the last half of 1997, according to a report submitted to the Federal Election Commission. He spent almost $390,000 during the six-month reporting period.
Combined with earlier fund-raising, that left Mr. Coverdell with nearly $2.5 million in his campaign treasury as of Dec. 31, with about 10 months to go before Election Day.
Mr. Cleland spent $2.8 million two years ago in defeating Republican businessman Guy Millner for the Senate seat vacated by former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga. Mr. Coverdell turned former Sen. Wyche Fowler, D-Ga., out of office six years ago in a race that cost the Republican $2.4 million.
Mr. Coverdell's Democratic challenger, cookie magnate Michael Coles, raised almost $465,000 between early October, when he entered this year's Senate race, and the end of December, according to his report.
He spent nearly $54,000, leaving him with about $411,000 in his campaign account as of Dec. 31.
Georgia Senate candidates will need cash this year to compete for attention with a host of candidates for statewide offices, including governor and attorney general. At the same time, the crowded field will make the competition for dollars intense, said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia.
"It's going to be harder to find anywhere in this state political money that somebody isn't siphoning," he said.
Mr. Bullock said one encouraging sign for Mr. Coverdell and Mr. Coles is that few, if any, Georgia House races are expected to be competitive.
Democrats have been left scrambling in two congressional districts where they had hopes of putting up strong challenges, the 10th and 8th, when David Bell and John Ellington decided not to run.
"Spending on House races probably will be less," Mr. Bullock said. "That will send some money flowing up into the Senate race."
Mr. Coles was involved in the most expensive House race in the nation two years ago when he lost to Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.
The multimillionaire founder of the Great American Cookie Co. spent $3.3 million in 1996, including $2.4 million of his personal fortune.
This year, Mr. Coles believes he will need $4 million to $5 million to compete with Mr. Coverdell.
"We're off to a good start," Mr. Coles said. "We only projected $250,000 for that (reporting) period, and we hit nearly $500,000. If we continue at this rate, I'm sure we'll raise the money that we need."
Marty Ryall, Mr. Coverdell's campaign manager, said the incumbent is not worried about facing a Democrat with deep pockets.
"I'm sure we'll have the resources to compete," Mr. Ryall said.
Mr. Coverdell raised nearly $711,000 from individual contributors during the last half of 1997, his report said. He also took in more than $242,000 from political action committees, while receiving $18,636 from two Senate Republican campaign committees.
Mr. Coles received nearly $357,000 from individual donors, according to his report, while taking in $35,500 from PACs and $17,500 from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He also contributed $53,790 of his own money to the campaign.
Most of Mr. Coverdell's PAC money came from corporate contributors, including $4,000 each from Union Pacific Corp., Torchmark Corp., the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade.
He also received $10,000 from a PAC formed by Republican leadership colleague Sen. Connie Mack, R-Fla.; $5,000 from The National PAC, a pro-Israel organization; and $5,000 from Americans for Free International Trade, whose members oppose foreign trade restrictions on American car manufacturers.
Ten of Mr. Cole's 11 PAC donors during the last half of 1997 were unions, accounting for all but $1,000 of his PAC contributions. He received $10,000 from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and $5,000 each from the United Auto Workers and Seafarers International.