D.C. mayoral candidates report more than $1 million in donations

August 1, 2013

With eight months remaining until the District’s mayoral primary, candidates reported Wednesday having raised a combined $1.1 million for their burgeoning campaigns.

The July 31 reporting deadline offered the first glimpse of the fundraising heft of the candidates, including three D.C. Council members who entered the race in recent months with hopes of succeeding Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D).

Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) led the pack, reporting $465,272. She out-raised colleagues Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who reported $377,029 in contributions, and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who claimed overall receipts of $268,108.

Another recent entrant, former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis, reported income of $75,283 in her inaugural filing.

Gray, whose 2010 campaign is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation, has not announced whether he will seek reelection. His silence has continued to hover over the race, keeping potential donors on the sidelines as they wait for the field to coalesce.

Overall donations are lagging behind those of the previous mayoral election cycle. At this point four years ago, eight months before the 2010 primary, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) alone had raised more than $3.5 million for his reelection bid.

Bowser, a council member since 2007 and the first to declare her candidacy in April, said she was “thrilled” with her fundraising lead. “I think it demonstrates we have had a really strong start, and it demonstrates that our message is resonating in all eight wards,” she said.

Her cash haul was heavy on real estate developers, small and mid-sized construction companies, and business leaders who had been strong supporters of Fenty, Bowser’s predecessor as Ward 4 council member. Several prominent city government lobbyists also wrote checks. But her campaign noted that nearly half of her 945 reported donations were of $100 or less, representing grass-roots support in city neighborhoods.

Bowser won support from parties on both sides of one divisive issue: Foulger-Pratt, the Rockville-based developer of a Wal-Mart in her ward, gave $2,000, while the Rev. Kendrick Curry, who recently hosted a news conference deeply critical of the mega-retailer at his Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church, gave $200.

Evans, who has deep support among the downtown business community, drew heavily upon that group and other moneyed interests for his early fundraising. He averaged $866 per donation, the highest among the candidates reporting Wednesday, in a race with a $2,000-per-donor limit.

Heavy fundraising from legal and real estate interests was evident, with particularly strong support from businesses in Evans’s home neighborhood of Georgetown — including developers Richard Levy and Richard Bernstein, parking executive Russell Lindner and the Clyde’s Restaurant Group.

Evans also won support from investment titans — banker Emanuel Friedman and private-equity mogul Carl Rickertsen — and sporting luminaries — Ted Leonsis, owner of the Wizards and the Capitals, Orioles owner Peter Angelos and former Redskins executive Charley Casserly.

In a statement, Evans said his campaign is “building a diverse coalition” of city residents and is “working harder than any other campaign.” His campaign has spent more than $72,000, nearly twice as much as Bowser’s — including nearly $20,000 in rent for a 14th Street NW storefront office.

Though Wells raised less than his council colleagues, he was upbeat about his fundraising success. Alone among the candidates, he has pledged not to accept donations from corporate entities, taking contributions only from individuals.

“I’ve shown that I can raise enough money to run a citywide campaign by not bundling donations from corporations,” Wells said. Had he not limited his donor base, he added, “I believe I could have raised substantially more money.”

His count included nearly $160,000 in donations to an exploratory committee Wells launched in February. His campaign recorded 1,073 individual donations, more than any other candidate — a fact, Wells said, that showed he has more widespread support than his third-place dollar total would indicate.”

Wells reported spending $73,753, more than any other campaign, leaving him with significantly less cash on hand than his competitors. His expenses included $14,575 to a polling firm and $13,750 for opposition research.

“I am going to run a first-class campaign,” Wells said. “I’m not going to nickel-and-dime.”

Lewis, who served in background roles in the Clinton presidential administration and later as a top deputy to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has kept a low profile since launching her campaign a month ago.

Her fundraising haul included some boldface names from the national political sphere, including former White House chief of staff Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty and top pharmaceutical industry lobbyist John Castellani.

Lewis, in a campaign statement, said residents are “responding to our message that we need to have a city that is open to every resident in every neighborhood: open for education, open for housing, and open to business.”

Two others have reported opening campaign committees.

Nestor Djonkam reported receiving a single $25 check, from himself. He has sought the mayoralty on two previous occasions; he received 73 votes in 2006 and failed to qualify for the ballot in 2010. Christian A. Carter, a Hillcrest businessman running as a Democrat, was granted a filing extension until Aug. 12, an Office of Campaign Finance spokesman said.

The primary election is set for April 1 — the first time since the city started electing its mayor in 1974 that the primary falls in spring rather than early September. The winner of the Democratic primary has gone on to win every general election in that time.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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