Fundraising Never Stops for Maryland House Members

Capital News Service
WASHINGTON – Less than six months out from their 2010 victories,  Maryland’s House of Representatives’ members are already raising funds for their 2012 campaigns, some more successfully than others, according to the latest Federal Election Commission reports.

In the 1st Congressional District, Republican Andy Harris won a narrow victory over Democratic incumbent Frank Kratovil in 2010. Now-incumbent Harris has nearly $100,000 more cash on hand than he did at this point in the last race.

“Incumbency will give him an edge, no matter what,” said Matthew Crenson, political science professor at Johns Hopkins University. But Harris may need more money to retain his seat in a largely Democratic state.

Harris was one of the tea party members to ride the revolutionary wave in the 2010 midterm but it is unclear if the energy for tea party outsiders will have the same effect in the 2012 election.

“What role the tea party will ultimately play over the course of the next year-and-a-half remains somewhat to be seen,” said Todd Eberly, interim director of the Center for the Study of Democracy at St. Mary’s College. “They clearly were effective in motivating voters and helping to motivate money in 2010. I see no reason to doubt that they will be effective in 2012 as well.”

Harris’ campaign finances could benefit from tea party enthusiasm. Crenson said some of his support in the 2012 race will likely come from tea party groups like Americans for Prosperity, which is financed by the Koch brothers, and FreedomWorks, led by former House Republican leader, Dick Armey.

Harris reported raising more than $210,000 in the first quarter of this year, more than double his fundraising in the first quarter of 2009. Even with a robust war chest, he could face a significant challenge to re-election if his district is redrawn.

The Democratic-controlled Maryland General Assembly will convene for a special session to address redistricting and they may try to draw the lines of the 1st District to give Democrats a better chance, Eberly said.

The competitive district could mean an increased need for cash by all candidates in the race.

“Harris will be well-financed, and whoever runs against him will also be well-financed,” he said. Kratovil’s campaign committee continues to file with the Federal Election Commission, but did not report any contributions this quarter.

Harris is not alone in continuing to build his coffers. In the 3rd District, Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, raised $233,000 this cycle, bringing his total cash on hand to more than double his total in 2009.

Five of Maryland’s eight House members have less cash on hand at present than they did at this stage of the last race.

“Safe” Democratic candidates in Maryland may not need as much money to fund their races in 2012 because the presidential election will bring their party members to the polls to re-elect Obama, Epperly said. “You’re gonna ride that wave to some extent, regardless of how much money you spend.”

Of the three members with less money at this point in the cycle than they did in 2009, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, has the most notable difference of $455,000.

“The reason that he doesn’t have to be hustling right now is that he’s probably not going to get any significant opposition in the Democratic primary,” Crenson said. “He’s in a pretty good position. He doesn’t need to scramble.”

For Ruppersberger, it may be too soon to know whether he will need to spend a lot to maintain his seat. “It would be too early to try to make a determination as to whether the field of candidates this election would be as competitive as last time around,” said Ruppersberger’s press secretary, Jaime Lennon.

In 2010, the average cost for House victors was $1,376,254, according to an analysis by the Campaign Finance Institute, a research organization that studies election funding. The amount of money spent by House winners has steadily increased in the last decade, said Brendan Glavin, the Institute’s data manager.

Overall totals for Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, are down 31 percent from last cycle — understandable considering his change in position in the party and lack of registered opposition in the 2012 race.      Van Hollen is the only member of the delegation with more than $1 million cash on hand now. He leads the delegation this cycle, as he did in the last campaign. This quarter, Van Hollen’s campaign committee reported more than $1.75 million cash on hand — almost $800,000 less than he had in April 2009.

Even though his total exceeds that of the next-closest member, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, by more than $900,000, Van Hollen has significantly less money than in 2009 when he headed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, an organization that helps elect Democrats to the House.

Campaign finance laws permit candidates to give unlimited amounts to the organization, which can then spend the money in tight races, and party leaders traditionally give large sums to the group. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, is a major contributor.

Hoyer led the delegation in fundraising this quarter, posting more than $500,000 in receipts. More than two-thirds of that money came from other political committees, like PACs.

Other delegation members have considerably less to work with. Cummings’ receipts of about $60,000 this quarter nearly matched his receipts of $66,675 from the first quarter of 2009. His overall cash on hand is up 38 percent from the same time in the last race.

Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington, trailed the rest of the delegation this cycle and last cycle. According to the latest report, her campaign has about $41,000 cash on hand. In April of the previous cycle, her committee reported $64,000 cash on hand.

Longtime congressman Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, raised the least money this quarter, bringing in $44,400. The 84-year-old announced that he will run for his 11th term in Congress in 2012.

The next FEC reporting deadline for candidates is July 15.