Del. Ronald A. George, a Republican hopeful for governor of Maryland, said Tuesday that he is “seriously considering” participating in the state’s public financing system and will make a final decision in coming weeks.
George (R-Anne Arundel) would be the second candidate in the 2014 race to opt into the system, which caps overall spending in the primary at about $2.5 million in exchange for the opportunity to receive public matching funds.
Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery) announced nearly a month ago that she would be the first gubernatorial candidate in 20 years to participate in the system.
George, who served on a state commission on campaign finance reform in recent years, said the public option holds appeal for him for several reasons.
As a state lawmaker, he will be subject to a ban on fundraising during the 90-day legislative session that starts next week. Moreover, George said, it’s more challenging for Republican gubernatorial candidates to raise money in Democrat-leaning Maryland during the early stages of the race because some donors wait to see who might be viable before contributing.
George said he’s never been comfortable hitting up large donors for campaign cash.
“I’m not crazy about all the big donors, people who want something,” he said in an interview.
To qualify for public financing in Maryland, gubernatorial candidates have to raise “seed money” of about $250,000 in increments of $250 or less.
“I’m pretty confident that we’re there,” George said.
He said he will make a decision on public financing by the Feb. 25 deadline for candidates to file for the race with the Board of Elections. Between now and then, George must also name a running mate. He said he is currently vetting four possible lieutenant governor candidates.
Other announced Republican candidates for governor include Harford County Executive David R. Craig; Charles County businessman Charles Lollar; and retired Baltimore firefighter Brian Vaeth.
Larry Hogan, an Anne Arundel County real-estate broker and the leader of Change Maryland, also plans to announce a bid for governor next month.
George’s interest in public financing was reported this week by the blog the Quinton Report, which cited a fundraising letter sent in recent weeks to antiabortion activists.
George, a jewelry store owner, said Tuesday that the letter was written by supporters of his and downplayed its emphasis on antiabortion issues.
“That’s not something I’m running on at all,” George said. “I’m running on the economy. I’ve been clear with people about that.”
Mizeur faces two better-known and better-financed candidates in the June Democratic primary: Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. Baltimore resident Charles U. Smith and Baltimore County resident Ralph Jaffe have also filed to run.