Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-28th District)
WASHINGTON - Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter, who turns 82 next month, says she's running next year for a 14th term representing western New York.
"Absolutely, no question about it," she said in an interview.
And she's off to a solid start financially.
Slaughter's campaign had more money in the bank at the end of June - $290,832 - than the campaigns of neighboring Reps. Tom Reed, Ann Marie Buerkle or Kathy Hochul, according to the latest reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Some of Slaughter's cash was carried over from the last campaign cycle, when she defeated Republican Jill Rowland 65 percent to 35 percent in the 28th District.
When Democrats were in charge of the House last fall, and Slaughter was a committee chairwoman and a member of the party leadership, she gave $500,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
A key challenge for Slaughter going into next year's election will be redistricting. New York is losing two of its 29 House seats because the state grew more slowly than the rest of the country over the last 10 years. And western New York, which lost population, is expected to lose one of those two seats.
The other seat likely will be lost in the New York City area. The Queens-Brooklyn district formerly represented by Anthony Weiner is considered at high risk of being carved up, with the pieces going to other districts.
Western New York is more problematic.
The May 24 election of former Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul in the open race for the 26th Congressional District next door to Slaughter's means western New York now has three Democrats in the House - Slaughter, Hochul and Brian Higgins of Buffalo.
One possibility is putting two of the three Democrats in the same district, meaning they would have to run against each other.
The state Legislature also could reconfigure the districts to protect Democrats and force two of the neighboring Republicans to face off.
A third option would be to put a Democrat and a Republican in the same district.
Slaughter declined to speculate on the outcome.
"I decided a long time ago that's out of my hands," she said. "I'm not going to worry myself. I've been able to win where they put me."
Hochul, another potential target for redistricting, also declined to speculate.
"I've always said if redistricting was on my mind, it means I've made it to Congress," Hochul said, referring to her recent election to the 26th District seat. "I'm very proud to be here every day. This district was not represented since February."
Hochul ended June with $204,368 after spending $1.6 million to win the open seat. She declined to predict how much a 2012 race might cost.
Buerkle, a freshman Republican representing the 25th District whose campaign had $205,063 on June 30, said she has not yet focused on raising money for the 2012 election.
"We really have been focused on getting our offices up and running and doing the people's work," Buerkle said.
But Buerkle has met with members of the state Legislature regarding redistricting in hopes of maintaining the district that covers all of Syracuse and surrounding Onondaga County.
"The real issue is the western part of the state, where they have three Democrats," Buerkle said. "That's where the population was lost. We didn't lose population in my district."
Regardless of the configuration of her district, Buerkle is expected to be a prime target for Democrats.
Former Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei, who lost to Buerkle in November, is expected to announce this month whether he'll seek a rematch. Maffei's campaign committee raised $41,642 in the first six months of this year and had $100,045 in the bank on June 30.
In the 29th District, Republican Rep. Tom Reed of Corning raised $260,726 in the first half of this year and had $120,143 in the bank on June 30. Reed said his campaign has focused on repaying debts from last year's race.
"We are going to clear the table and then build up the war chest," Reed said.
He indicated $1.1 million to $1.2 million would be "a fair target" depending on how the district might be reconfigured under redistricting.