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McSally took in more than $640,000 for next campaign in first quarter

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WASHINGTON – Freshman Rep. Martha McSally, R-Tucson, raised more than $643,576 in the first three months of the year and has more than $820,593 in the bank for any potential challenges, according to the latest campaign finance reports.

Experts said it is unusual for a freshman to raise that much in the first quarter of an election cycle. But they said that McSally, who raised close to $4.9 million to win a razor-thin victory over incumbent Democratic Rep. Ron Barber, is likely heavily raising campaign funds to ward off any potential challengers in 2016.

“McSally knows they’re (Democrats) coming after her and it’s wise to raise as much money as she can early on. It might dissuade others from running against her,” said Stu Rothenberg, a political analyst and columnist for Roll Call.

“It shows that incumbents like her are well aware of their elections coming up around the corner and want to start preparing early to fend off challengers,” Rothenberg said.

At least one challenger has already decided not to run: Barber said earlier this month that he would not run again in 2016, according to a statement on his campaign website. Barber barely beat McSally in 2012 and lost a rematch to her in 2014 by the thinnest of margins, with just 167 ballots separating the two out of almost 220,000 votes cast.

McSally’s fundraising led all members of the Arizona congressional delegation in terms of money raised in the quarter and cash on hand, according to the latest reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, came in a distant second, raising $446,736 in the quarter and reporting $580,269 in the bank at the end of March.

McSally held her first public fundraiser of the year in February, just over a month into her first term as a member of Congress.

“She’s proving she knows exactly what needs to be done to stay in Congress,” said Sean Noble, president of DC London, an Arizona-based political consulting firm.

Noble said he thinks it unlikely Democrats will recapture the district now that Barber has pulled out, and that McSally is likely to be in Congress “for a while.”

A spokesman for McSally’s campaign said the fundraising is a reflection of the “high marks” voters in the district have given the congresswoman for the work she is doing in Washington.

“The incredible support Martha is seeing after being in office only a few months is an unmistakable sign of approval for the energetic representation she brings to Southern Arizona,” spokesman Patrick Ptak in a statement on the campaign’s website.

More than half of McSally’s money, 56.7 percent, came from individuals, according to her FEC report, while 35 percent came from political action committees. Among higher-profile donors to her campaign were Raytheon, Pinnacle West Capital, the National Rifle Association and PACs affiliated with House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

McCain’s PAC donated $5,000 to McSally and to every other Republican House member from Arizona except Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Mesa.