ATLANTA -- U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood raised almost $250,000 toward his re-election campaign during the first six months of this year with no Democratic opponent even in the race.
Those busy months of fund-raising allowed Mr. Norwood, R-Ga., to spend $122,973 during the first half of the year and still have $333,226 left in his treasury as of June 30, according to a report submitted to the Federal Election Commission.
While no one has come forward thus far to challenge the Augusta-area's representative, who seeks a fourth term next year, it's in his best interest to pile up as much campaign cash as he can, said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia.
"The more you raise, the less likely you are to get a viable opponent," he said. "By having a healthy bankroll, you might never have to spend it."
Dr. Bullock said some potential challengers may be inclined to skip the 2000 race and wait until 2002, when the General Assembly will have completed redrawing the state's congressional districts to adjust to the 2000 census.
"In those new districts, incumbents won't be as well known," he said. "A substantial change in a district might put the challenger and incumbent on a more even plain."
But Georgia Democratic Executive Director John Kirincich said he expects solid challengers to emerge in most of the districts now represented by Republicans.
Mr. Norwood has been a perennial target because his 10th Congressional District has a large population of blacks who historically vote Democratic.
"We're going to target our resources," Mr. Kirincich said. "That's how you win races."
Georgia Republican Chairman Chuck Clay also expects the Democrats to mount a strong bid for Mr. Norwood's seat. But he said Congress' recent emphasis on tax cuts and defense spending, including the fight to save funding for the F-22 fighter jets built at Lockheed Martin's Marietta plant, has energized GOP voters.
"These kinds of bread-and-butter issues, which we have good credibility on, are starting to spark interest," Mr. Clay said.
The Norwood campaign took in $114,742 from individual contributors during the first half of the year, according to his FEC report. A little more than that -- $122,326 -- came from political-action committees representing a wide variety of special interests.
Mr. Norwood's largest PAC contribution was $8,000 from Georgia Power Co., followed by $5,000 from the American Family Life Assurance Co.
Columbus-based AFLAC has been an active donor to Georgia Republicans and Democrats. The company and the family of its CEO gave $9,000 to Gov. Roy Barnes' campaign last year.
The governor later supported a provision in a bill exempting AFLAC from the authority of the state's new consumer insurance advocate.
Mr. Norwood also received $5,000 from PACs representing six tobacco companies, $1,500 from Lockheed Martin and $1,000 from the National Rifle Association.