In a sign of potential political vulnerability, US Representative John F. Tierney raised less money in the last three months of 2013 than two challengers hoping to unseat him this year.
Democrat Seth Moulton, a veteran, and Republican Richard R. Tisei, a former state senator who ran unsuccessfully against Tierney in 2012, both pulled in more money in the fourth quarter of 2013 than Tierney, according to federal filings.
A candidate’s fund-raising haul is a key and very public metric that alludes to the health of his or her campaign.
In October, November, and December of last year, Tisei raised $435,000, Moulton raised $253,000, and Tierney brought in $228,000.
But Tierney, who has been a congressman since 1997, had the most money in the bank on Dec. 31. He had $709,000 in cash on hand compared to Moulton’s $396,000 and Tisei’s $394,000.
Peter Ubertaccio, a political science professor at Stonehill College, said Tierney would clearly have enough money to be competitive, but the newly released numbers were a red flag that he could be in for two very tough races this year.
“Early money is a cue to other donors, to activists locally, statewide, and around the country,” he said. “The early money in this race tells me it’s going to be extremely competitive both in the primary and the general election.”
Tierney spokesman Daniel Rubin noted that the congressman did not engage in fund-raising for a portion of the quarter, due to the partial shutdown of the federal government.
“Despite the nearly three week government shutdown in October, during which time the Congressman did not fundraise, we are pleased to have the most cash on hand of any candidate in the race,” Rubin said in a statement. “We are highly confident that John will have the resources necessary to run and win this campaign.”
The amount a candidate raises from individuals, as opposed to political committees, is sometimes seen as a measure of grassroots support.
Just over half of Tierney’s quarterly haul was from individuals. Those contributions totaled $118,000. Moulton raised $250,000 from individuals, almost all of the total amount he brought in.
Tisei pulled in $271,000 from individuals.
Moulton, a novice political candidate who has three degrees from Harvard and served in the Marines, also raised more money than Tierney in the third quarter of 2013.
Tisei, who kicked off his campaign for Congress in January, opened a fund-raising account in October, which allowed him to begin stockpiling cash.
In a bitter and hard-fought general election race in 2012, Tierney beat Tisei by one percentage point.
Notably, Tisei outraised Tierney over the course of the campaign, but still lost.
Tierney, who represents the state’s North Shore-anchored Sixth Congressional District, which stretches from from Bedford to Salisbury, faces another Democratic opponent in the party’s primary besides Moulton. Immigration lawyer Marisa DeFranco is also running. Filings show she raised $19,000 over the October-through-December period and ended 2013 with just $34,000 in the bank.
Candidates use the money they raise to pay for a range of expenses from staff salaries to political consulting to television ads and web videos.
And while a big campaign war chest remains essential in any contested race, the proliferation of outside groups such as super PACs — which can raise unlimited sums from a single person or labor union or corporation and often spend heavily in support or opposition to a candidate in competitive contests — has altered the political landscape in recent years. Outside political spending can blunt fund-raising disparities between candidates.
Individuals are limited to giving $2,600 per election to a federal candidate, which means that top donors give $5,200 to candidates like Tierney, Moulton and Tisei — $2,600 for the primary election, $2,600 for the general election.
This year’s state primary is set for Sept. 9, with the general election on Nov. 4.
Meanwhile elsewhere in the state, US Representative William R. Keating raised only $86,000 in the fourth quarter, an unusually small sum for a someone who could face a competitive race.
At least three Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination to take him on, including John C. Chapman, a former Romney administration official.
Keating represents the state’s Ninth Congressional District, which includes the Cape and Islands, as well as a swath of southern Massachusetts from Norwell to New Bedford to part of Fall River.
At the end of the year, he had $419,000 in the bank.
Senator Edward J. Markey, who won a June 2013 special election to complete the term of John F. Kerry, faces voters again in November.
He pulled in $852,000 in the fourth quarter of last year and ended 2013 with $1.4 million in the bank, according to spokeswoman Giselle Barry.
Republican Brian J. Herr, a Hopkinton selectman, announced last week he was challenging Markey.
The deadline for federal candidates to file their fourth quarter fund-raising reports to the Federal Election Commission was Friday.