Edwards, Kerry lead Democrats in fund raising for 2004 campaign

In a crowded field, both have at least $7 million

Dean collects $2.6 million


WASHINGTON - Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts reported yesterday that he raised $7 million in the first three months of the year for his presidential campaign, placing second in the money primary for the 2004 Democratic nomination, which suggests that the race is wide open.

Kerry, a veteran politician, trailed freshman Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who reported Tuesday that he raised $7.4 million in the quarter that ended Monday.

Former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont said yesterday that he raised $2.6 million.

Other major candidates did not release their figures, which are not due to the Federal Election Commission until April 15.

But Democratic Party insiders, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri raised between $2.5 million and $4.5 million, and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut raised between $2 million and $3 million.

The fund raising offers the first tangible sign of how well the candidates are faring with the party insiders and contributors who are already tuning in to a political race that won't appear on the nation's agenda until next year.

The numbers affirm that there is no runaway front-runner, despite previous speculation that Kerry had an early lead.

Neither Edwards nor Kerry matched the $8.8 million raised in the first quarter of 1999 by Al Gore.

While neither of them has Gore's status as a sitting vice president, each could legally raise money in $2,000 increments, twice the limit Gore faced.

The financial reports also show that Democratic contributors are not cowed by President Bush's popularity, even in wartime.

They apparently shelled out more than $20 million in the past three months, eclipsing the $13 million they gave when Gore faced Bill Bradley of New Jersey four years ago.

"It shows the Democratic Party is enormously energized and that the kind of activists who contribute see George Bush as quite vulnerable," said Jim Jordan, Kerry's campaign manager.

Kerry said his $7 million came from contributors in all 50 states.

At the Edwards campaign, aides said the $7.4 million proved that the newcomer in his first Senate term is striking a chord.

Also running are former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York. All started their candidacies late and were not expected to raise competitive totals in the first quarter.

Dean, who has appealed to anti-war activists, raised less than his rivals but about $1 million more than he expected.

"We're running a different campaign than the other people," spokeswoman Kate O'Connor said. "What we're finding is there is a lot of support that comes from the average person."

As the only anti-war candidate among the top tier of candidates, Dean is best positioned to tap anti-war donors. Said Drake University political scientist Dennis Goldford, "Dean is going to a different bank."

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