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US House candidates face funding deadline
Money collected must be reported by Jan. 31
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Election 2012 calendar

Georgia voting dates
March 6: Presidential primary
July 31: State primary for legislative, local races
Aug. 21: Primary runoff, if necessary
Nov. 6: Election Day
Dec. 4: General election runoff, if necessary

Just as everyone headed home for Christmas on Dec. 23, the U.S. Department of Justice put the Obama administration's stamp of approval on Georgia's new voting maps, legitimizing the campaign that local congressional hopefuls kicked off as early as September.

Now that they're confirmed, it's suddenly important for the candidates of Georgia's future 9th U.S. House District seat to strut into 2012 looking like the biggest rooster in the henhouse.

They have until midnight tonight to collect as much money for their campaigns as they can.

It's a fact those seeking the state's newest seat have made hard for their supporters to forget.

Through her campaign Facebook page, Martha Zoller solicited $20.12-sized contributions from her social media friends Thursday.

Likewise, Doug Collins and his campaign staffers spent the week "dialing for dollars," Collins consultant Chip Lake said.

After becoming the first potential candidate for the state's new congressional seat in September, Collins showed a steady campaign focus on fundraising when he reported a significant financial lead over his then only opponent Zoller, with more than $112,000 in contributions.

But neither Collins nor any other candidate is bragging about what money is or is not piling up in the campaign's coffers.

"Traditionally, the fourth quarter of an off year (nonelection year) is one of the slowest quarters to make money," said Lake.

Still, Lake says Collins' camp is looking to "post as strong a report as we can" for end-of-year contributions.

As a general rule, campaigns usually keep contribution amounts close to the vest until the last possible moment, unless, of course, they have something to crow about.

Candidates have until Jan. 31, to report the money they
collect by the end of today.

Hunter Bicknell's campaign manager Mark Pettit says Jackson County's Commission Chairman has "work to do" when it comes to fundraising.

Bicknell joined the race in early November after Collins and Zoller's first fundraising totals were made public.

Another man, Clifton McDuffie, announced his intent to run at about the same time, but has yet to file fundraising paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission.

If McDuffie and Bicknell want to compete with Collins' media buying power and Zoller's name recognition, they have to play catch up to the candidates who have had a two-month head start on raising campaign cash.

But to admit as much isn't portraying a sign of weakness, according to Pettit.

"There is a lot of room left in this race to do some fundraising," said Pettit. "We're ready to go out there and do a full-court press."

McDuffie, too, says there's ample time to get the money he needs.

"Nothing happens until July. That's when you get elected," said McDuffie. "That's a long time from where we are right now, and a lot of things can happen."

Zoller's campaign, which collected more than $27,500 in the last reporting period, has been trying to use her recent appearance on Rush Limbaugh and endorsements by big names in the world of conservative punditry to generate fundraising momentum.

Ryan Mahoney, who manages Zoller's campaign, says that endorsements like those give Zoller's campaign coffers a boost, bringing in contributions "from coast to coast."

But in nearly the same breath, Mahoney is modest about Zoller's campaign coffers, saying the campaign's fundraising goals aren't dictated by the amount of money other candidates may have.

"We're pulling from a different batch of folks (than Collins)," said Mahoney. "They're used to going out and working hard for you, not writing a $2,500 check. Our support is far and wide, but we're dealing with different people."

And how different their supporters are will be clear at the end of the month.