Tarryl Clark, Rick Nolan and Jeff Anderson are spending more than they're taking in.
WASHINGTON - The race to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack has left his potential challengers spent -- literally.
While Cravaack has $916,000 banked for his re-election bid, the three DFL candidates vying to unseat him are burning through cash fast, federal campaign finance reports show.
Former state Sen. Tarryl Clark spent $225,000 in the first 25 days of July, more than three times the total she raised during the same period.
With less than two weeks remaining before the Aug. 14 primary, former Congressman Rick Nolan and former Duluth City Council Member Jeff Anderson have also resorted to spending more cash than they're taking in.
The prolonged primary fight is what Democratic leaders in Minnesota and Washington, D.C., feared. The DFL contenders are slugging it out and depleting resources ahead of a crucial general election contest that has national implications.
As of July 25, Clark had roughly $100,000 stockpiled for the primary's stretch run, Nolan had about $88,000 and Anderson had less than $10,000.
Before the district convention in April, former U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar urged the Democratic candidates to avoid a primary fight.
"I said, 'Try to resolve this within the DFL convention and come out united," he told the Star Tribune this spring. "Having a primary is troublesome because they are all going to have to spend some amount of money."
The race to represent Minnesota's Eighth Congressional District is expected to be among the nation's 25 most competitive U.S. House races, and is essential if national Democrats have any chance to recapture control of the Republican-led U.S. House.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which analyzes elections and campaigns, lists the contest as a "toss-up," meaning no candidate has a clear advantage. The same could be said for the DFL race, the district's first contested primary in two decades.
Anderson, Clark and Nolan are running television ads and touting endorsements from big-name politicians.
Former President Bill Clinton has endorsed Clark, while Gov. Mark Dayton and Oberstar support Nolan. Anderson has the backing of a host of mayors and state legislators within the northeastern Minnesota district.
For more than a half century, the district was a Democratic lock until Cravaack upset Oberstar, an 18-term incumbent.
The DFL has endorsed Nolan and run ads on his behalf, but party chairman Ken Martin said long-dormant donors and activists are primed to support whoever wins.
"This seat is one of the top priorities in the nation," Martin said. "They realize the path to the majority runs smack dab through the Eighth District."
Several national advocacy groups seeking to influence the outcome of the general election and primary are already deploying resources in the district, sending out mailings, reserving television ad time for the fall and organizing voters.
In the latest effort, Emily's List, a group backing Clark, mailed out fliers criticizing Nolan for voting to prohibit federally-funded abortions when he was in Congress in the 1970s.
Nolan said his position on abortion shifted decades ago -- even before he left Congress in the early 1980s.
As the DFLers spar, Cravaack is prepared to defend his seat -- and record in Congress, an adviser to his campaign said.
"While the DFL candidates will continue to battle each other over the next week, Chip Cravaack has stayed above the fray ...," said Ben Golnik. Cravaack has no primary opponent.
Corey Mitchell is a correspondent in the Star Tribune Washington Bureau.