Thursday, January 19, 2006

Maryland Candidates Release Fundraising Reports - League Analysis

from The League: Reassembled with revisions

Most of the candidates in Maryland's state- and county-wide 2006 elections released fundraising reports over the past few days, providing some interesting insight into how the races are shaping up.

Senate Race

The surprising news from the Senate race is that Democratic Rep. Ben Cardin didn't keep up with Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. Steele, a Republican, raised $853,350 in the last quarter of 2005, compared with Cardin's $800,000. Considering that a recent Rasmussen Poll put Steele ahead of Cardin by five percentage points (45% - 40%), the fundraising figures reaffirm what has been known all along: the national Republican establishment (including genius Bush advisor Karl Rove) wouldn't have urged Steele to jump into the campaign unless he stands a good chance to win. This fundraising report in conjunction with the poll may energize Republicans who smell a chance of getting their hands on a Senate seat longheld by Democrats, which could provide Steele with some helpful money and momentum.

The fundraising reports weren't all bad news for Cardin. His chief rival in the Democratic primary, former Congressman and previous NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, did not disclose his numbers. This may suggest that Mfume is disappointed with the fruits of his fundraising effort. The League commented in November that a poll which surprisingly put Mfume only 2 percentage points behind Cardin would have given potential contributors the motivation needed to donate to the Mfume campaign. This could still be the case but, for now, it appears Cardin has beaten Mfume once again in the money game.

Democrat Allan Lichtman raised $60,000. Unity candidate Kevin Zeese and Democrats Lise Van Susteren and Robert Kauffman did not disclose their fundraising totals.

Gubernatorial Race

Governor Robert Ehrlich pulled in $4.6 million last year, giving a whooping $8.4 million cash on hand for a governor who hasn't even declared that he is seeking re-election. Ehrlich could either begin spending within the next four or five months to provide a steady stream of outreach to the voters. Or he could wait until September 12, when his Democratic opponent may emerge from a tough primary bruised, to launch an aggressive campaign that will hit his opponent while he's already reeling from the primary contest.

There may not be a tough Democratic primary, however. Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley made a much stronger showing than Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan. O'Malley pulled in $4.3 million over the year while Duncan only managed to raise $1.3 million. Although the Executive has claimed to be in the race for the long haul, coming up with only a tad more than 25% of O'Malley's war chest has got to be a sobering and intimidating experience. Duncan will probably remain in the race until the summer but, if he can't pick up the momentum needed to present a serious challenge to O'Malley, may drop out of the race to give the Mayor a better shot at beating Ehrlich.

O'Malley may want Duncan to be scared off by the numbers, but the Mayor chose not to be intimidated by Ehrlich's impressive showing. His campaign distributed a press release today touting that "Martin O’Malley leads Bob Ehrlich 52.6%-40% in the latest Wall Street Journal/Zogby Battleground Poll." The message: Ehrlich may have more cash, but O'Malley has the popular support. Another bonus for O'Malley (and Duncan): the Governor is prohibited by law from raising money while the General Assembly is in session through April 10. The Democrats can use this time to play catch-up.

County Executive Races

Howard
Republican Christopher Merdon, a seven-year member of the County Council, raised $173,658 last year, over $10,000 more than Democratic opponenet and fellow Council member Ken Ulman. Harry Dunbar, another Republican, did not release figures.

The current Executive, Democrat James Robey, is challenging social conservative state Senator Sandra Schrader.

Anne Arundel
By far the most crowded County Executive race in the state, six people have thrown their hats into the ring to replace current Executive Janet Owens, who is barred from running for a third term but rumored to be considering a run for the 3rd Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Ben Cardin.

Sheriff George Johnson, a Democrat, raised more than all other candidates combined with $374,000 for the year. Republican Phil Bissett, a former state Delegate who lost a bid to unseat Owens in 2002, was far behind Johnson with $140,000. Republican state delegate John R. Leopold raised $120,000. Greg Nourse, a Republican who works as an assistant superintendent in the county school system, announced that he pulled in $2,743 over the year. Republicans David G. Boschert, a state Delegate, and Tom Angelis, a retired police officer, did not release figures.

Montgomery
A heated race to fill the spot Doug Duncan is vacating to run for governor. The race, which will more than likely be won by the Democrat, features strong candidates.

MoCo Councilmember Steve Silverman raised the most funds in 2005 at $551,164. Isiah Leggett, a Howard University Law professor who served a long tenure on the Council, including a stint as President, raised $482,259. Republican Robin Ficker, an attorney and perennial candidate, pulled in $126,52 over the year.

Prince George's
Current Executive Jack Johnson faces a strong challenge from a fellow Democrat. Johnson has been plagued by charges of mismanagement, illustrated by a scandal in the school system and rising rates of violent crime. Johnson's challenger, state Delegate Rushern L. Baker III, raised a respectable $141,604 but couldn't reach Johnson's $140,042.

(Numbers for the Senate race are from a Baltimore Sun story; the gubernatorial numbers are from another Sun story, and the county executive races numbers are found in a Washington Post article.)

from The League: Reassembled with revisions

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