Harris, Kratovil Steadily Raising Funds for 1st District Rematch

“By BEN GILES
Capital News Service

Rep. Frank Kratovil Jr. and State Sen. Andrew Harris have picked up their fundraising over the last three months, as they move toward an expected rematch next year in the 1st District.
Harris raised $118,299 in the three-month period ending in July, bringing the Republican’s cash on hand to $210,349 as of June 30, the most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Kratovil, the Democratic incumbent, raised $296,928 in the quarter, bringing his cash on hand to $503,819.

But while Kratovil holds a fundraising advantage now, the candidate with the most money has not always been better for it in the 1st District — last year, Harris raised $1 million more than Kratovil and still lost.

“”Generally, the district has been unimpressed by fundraising alone,”” said Tony Caligiuri, former chief of staff to former Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, who lost the seat in a 2008 Republican primary to Harris.

Kratovil then won the 1st District seat by a mere 2,852 votes over Harris, who only conceded on Nov. 11 after days of recounts increased Kratovil’s election-night lead.

Harris didn’t take long to decide to run again in 2010 — the Cockeysville Republican filed a statement of candidacy with the FEC on Nov. 28, 2008.

Others have also taken an interest in the race, which is expected to be the most closely contested in the state next year.

This election cycle, the Republican National Campaign Committee has identified Harris as one of the party’s Young Guns — a group of candidates the committee is supporting in hopes of winning back seats in the House.

As a first-term Democrat seeking re-election, Kratovil, of Stevensville, has been named a Frontline Democrat by his party in an effort to boost his fundraising and draw national attention to his campaign.

The bulk of Kratovil’s funds are coming from organizations and donors outside of the district: He has received sizable donations from PACs in San Francisco, New York and Chicago, with PAC donations totaling $376,835 this year. He has also received gifts from fellow Maryland congressman, including Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, and Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville.

Kratovil spokesman Kevin Lawlor said that the fundraising is nothing out of the ordinary for any congressman, let alone an incumbent. While there is no formal campaign committee in place yet for Kratovil’s re-election bid, Lawlor said there are plenty of loyal holdovers from the previous election cycle who are helping to raise money.

Most of Harris’ funds have come from individual gifts from lawyers and business owners in areas such as Annapolis, Gibson Island and Salisbury. Harris also got $2,500 from the American Society of Anesthesiologists, of which he is a member.

Harris may benefit from being considered the Republican front-runner in the 2010 election, said Michael Franc, Heritage Foundation vice president for government relations.

After unseating Gilchrest in the primary, Gilchrest went on to endorse Kratovil, which helped fracture the Republican vote in the district. This election cycle, Harris has stronger party backing.

But Caligiuri said Harris would be well served to campaign on his own.

“”The Republican National Party ended that last campaign with heavy debt, and they’re just not going to have the money to pump into a race,”” Caligiuri said.

Caligiuri also noted that two other Republicans have filed statements of candidacy with the FEC: Jefferson Ludwig Ghrist Jr., a Caroline County Commissioner, filed on July 21, and Wicomico County resident Grady Romblad filed Aug. 4.

Libertarian Richard James Davis of Hurlock is the only hopeful who has filed his candidacy for the 1st District with the Maryland State Board of Elections. He has not filed with the FEC.

“”Nobody got 50 percent of the vote in the (2008) Republican primary,”” said Caligiuri. “”So there are more than 50 percent of the voters up for grabs in the upcoming primary.””

That lack of a consensus nominee in the 2008 primary may have given hope to a growing crop of candidates, he said.

Franc said a strong crop of candidates may be a positive sign for Maryland Republicans — the party nationwide has become more active since last November’s elections.

“”The environment is so different right now in terms of where the intensity is around the country, and probably in this district as well,”” said Franc. “”It’s a much different dynamic than it would have been eight or nine months ago.””

While some things have changed, Caligiuri said again that money will not be the only factor in the 1st District.

“”It seems he’s (Kratovil) doing a pretty solid job of building a good base and getting out there, doing town meetings; he’s staying pretty visible in the papers,”” said Caligiuri. “”He’s been very aggressive.””

Harris did not return requests for comment on the campaign.”

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