By James B. Kelleher
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic hopeful in a hotly contested Massachusetts U.S. Senate race, was the top fundraiser among Senate candidates in the third quarter with $12.1 million, according to reports from candidates on Monday.
Monday was the deadline for political campaigns to file their fund-raising reports with the Federal Election Commission for the quarter ended September 30.
Warren is in a tight race with Republican incumbent Senator Scott Brown, one of just over a dozen contests that will decide whether Democrats keep majority Senate control. Republicans need a net gain of at least four seats to take the majority.
Warren easily outraised Brown, but fell short of a spot in the money-raising record books.
"It's definitely a large quarterly total and puts her in the top tier," said Bob Biersack, a senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics. "But it's not unprecedented."
The quarterly record, Biersack said, belongs to Linda McMahon, the former professional wrestling company executive and two-time Republican candidate for Senate in Connecticut. In 2010, McMahon raised $20 million in the third quarter - much of it her own money - only to lose to Richard Blumenthal.
Warren's opponent Brown had the second-largest haul among those surveyed by Reuters, bringing in nearly $7.5 million in the quarter, according to his campaign. Warren has had a narrow lead in most recent polls.
In another high-profile race, Missouri Republican Todd Akin, who was spurned by his own party after his controversial remarks about "legitimate rape," did not give a fundraising figure. Many major Republican donors withdrew their support for Akin after the remarks, and his spokesman said that Akin would not be releasing his fundraising report on Monday.
Akin's opponent Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill reported earlier this month that she had raised $5.8 million in the quarter. McCaskill has led in polls since the Akin gaffe.
The two contenders in the Senate race in Virginia, another closely watched fight, also garnered large amounts with Tim Kaine, a former governor and Democratic party chair, raising $4.5 million. His Republican rival, former governor and Senator George Allen, raised nearly $3.5 million, according to campaigns. Kaine has a slight lead in polls although the race is expected to remain tight.
Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat who would be the first openly gay U.S. Senator if she wins, raised $4.6 million in the quarter, more than double the $2.2 million raised by her Republican opponent, former Governor Tommy Thompson. Thompson led polls immediately after his Republican primary victory but has fallen behind slightly of late.
Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, who is waging a spirited race against incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, raised $4.5 million in the quarter, according to his campaign. Brown's campaign said his fundraising total would not be released on Monday. Brown has led by single digits but some recent polls have shown a closer race.
Indiana Tea Party favorite and Republican nominee for the Senate, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, raised $3 million in the third quarter, double the $1.5 million raised by Democratic Congressman Joe Donnelly. Mourdock ousted longtime Indiana Senator Richard Lugar in the Republican primary and the bitter feelings from that race have left some voters disenchanted and polls showing a tight race.
In Florida, Republican Congressman Connie Mack, the son of a former U.S. senator from Florida, reported raising $2.7 million in the quarter, while incumbent Senator Bill Nelson, reported raising $2.3 million. Nelson has been leading by single digits in most polls.
In Nebraska, Republican Deb Fischer reported raising $2.4 million in the third quarter, while Democratic former governor and Senator Bob Kerrey reported raising $1.7 million. Fischer came from behind to win the Republican primary and is leading in the polls, giving Republicans a good chance of gaining a seat.
Pennsylvania Republican challenger Bob Smith slightly outraised incumbent Senator Bob Casey with their campaigns reporting $1.6 million and $1.5 million raised in the quarter. Smith has narrowed Casey's lead in recent polls.
In Connecticut, Chris Murphy, the Democratic congressman facing McMahon in this year's Senate race, raised nearly $2.9 million, according to his campaign. McMahon is mainly self-financed and has been very close to Murphy in surveys conducted in a typically Democratic state.
Nevada Senator Dean Heller, the Republican appointed to fill out the term of an incumbent who resigned, reported raising $1.6 million, about the same as the $1.65 million raised by his opponent, Congresswoman Shelley Berkley. Heller has held a narrow lead in most polls.
Another endangered incumbent is Montana Democratic Senator Jon Tester, who announced he raised $2.3 million in the quarter compared with $2.4 million for his opponent, Republican Congressman Denny Rehberg. The race has been tight all year in the polls.
In another close race in the West, Democratic candidate Richard Carmona, a former Surgeon General, topped his Republican opponent Congressman Jeff Flake in fundraising. Carmona received $2.2 million in the quarter compared to $1.3 million for Flake, who was the favorite but has been even or behind in some polls.
A state where Republicans hope to pick up a seat is North Dakota. Republican candidate Congressman Rick Berg reported raising $1.57 million and Democrat Heidi Heitkamp reported $1.6 million. There have been few polls in the sparsely populated state but those taken show a dead heat.
The completed filings, which will not be made public until later this month, provide a glimpse of the fundraising efforts of candidates before the final reporting date of October 25.
(Additional reporting by Kevin Murphy, David Dawson, Brendan O'Brien, Alina Selyukh, Richard Cowan, Eric Johnson, Greg McCune, Jonathan Weber, David Schwartz and David Bailey.; Editing by Greg McCune and Todd Eastham)