Maryland Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Anthony G. Brown and his running mate collected $5.4 million in donations over the past year, enough to wipe out a huge fundraising advantage enjoyed by rival Douglas F. Gansler and a record for any ticket in Maryland heading into an election year.
After raising more than three times what Gansler (D) and his running mate reported late Wednesday night, Brown and his lieutenant governor candidate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman (D), had nearly $7.1 million available for the race as of Jan. 8, according to reports filed with the State Board of Elections.
That exceeded the $6.3 million that Gansler, Maryland’s attorney general, and his running mate, Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s), said they had in the bank.
A third candidate for governor, Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery), and her running mate reported having nearly $750,000 in cash on hand. The totals reported Wednesday by Republican candidates were anemic compared with those of the leading Democrats.
Both leading Democratic tickets will have plenty of money to air television ads in advance of the June primary, analysts said. But Gansler’s reversal of fortune raised questions about his decision to wait until last fall to officially launch his campaign, several months after Brown and Ulman were on the campaign trail and aggressively courting donors.
“I think Gansler thought his fundraising advantage was a thicker fortress than it turned out to be,” said Mike Morrill, a veteran Democratic strategist who is not working for any of the gubernatorial contenders but who has worked for Gansler in the past. “It was a clear miscalculation.”
Brown formally announced his candidacy in May and added Ulman as his lieutenant governor candidate in June. That move alone bolstered Brown’s financial standing. Ulman, who had been considering a bid for governor himself, had $2.1 million in the bank.
The summer months provided some of the largest disparities in money raised by the two tickets. In July and August, Brown’s ticket raised close to $950,000, nearly nine times as much as Gansler, according to a Washington Post analysis.
Gansler spokesman Bob Wheelock said Thursday that his ticket was satisfied with the money it has in the bank. He said Gansler had no second thoughts about waiting to enter the race and argued that Gansler has been more committed to his current job than Brown.
“We firmly believe that $6.3 million is plenty,” Wheelock said. “We believe that the lieutenant governor spent time fundraising at the expense of the health exchange.”
Brown was charged with overseeing the implementation of the federal health-care law in Maryland, including the rollout of the state’s online health-insurance exchange, which has been riddled with glitches since its Oct. 1 debut.
While Brown has taken flak in the media and the legislature for the Web site’s shortcomings, there is scant evidence that it hurt his fundraising in recent months.
Brown’s ticket raised $1.1 million in December and nearly $1 million in the first eight days of January, according to the Post analysis. That was nearly three times what Gansler raised during the same stretch.
Gansler’s debut as a candidate in late September was marred by a pair of unflattering news stories about allegations by the Maryland State Police that he ordered troopers who drive him to speed and run red lights on the way to even routine appointments and about his attendance at a teenagers’ beach party where there was apparent underage drinking.
Wheelock said the campaign doesn’t believe fundraising was hurt significantly by those stories and that it has moved on. Gansler’s strongest fundraising month was December, when his ticket collected close to $550,000, according to the Post analysis.
Wheelock pointed out that Gansler had raised more money than he did in the previous year.
A year ago, when the hopefuls last reported fundraising totals, Gansler had $5.2 million in the bank while Brown showed only $1.6 million.
Mizeur’s fundraising picture is a little more complicated because she has agreed to participate in the state’s public financing system. While she and her running mate, Delman Coates, have close to $750,000 in the bank, she probably won’t be able to use all of it on the primary because of restrictions on candidates who participate in the system.
Harford County Executive David R. Craig, who has been touted as a leading GOP candidate for governor, had less than $183,000 available for his campaign after a year in which he and his running mate spent more than they raised.
Meanwhile, two other Republican hopefuls, Del. Ronald A. George and Charles County businessman Charles Lollar, finished the year with little money. George (R-Anne Arundel) reported about $15,000 in cash on hand, while Lollar reported less than $6,000 in the bank.
Jim Pettit, a spokesman for the Craig campaign, said the ticket plans to put a greater emphasis on fundraising in early April, after the conclusion of this year’s General Assembly session.
“The emphasis of the campaign, thus far, has been seeing people where they live and work and getting seen across the state,” Pettit said.
The low totals create a favorable environment for Larry Hogan, a Cabinet official under former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), who plans to announce his candidacy next week. Hogan, who leads the group Change Maryland, was not required to file a campaign report.
Reports filed Wednesday also provided a gauge of the financial strength of candidates running to succeed Gansler as attorney general.
Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery) reported having more than $795,000 on hand, while Del. Jon S. Cardin (D-Baltimore County) said he had nearly $375,000.
Another contender for the job, Del. C. William Frick (D-Montgomery), trailed with about $134,000 as of Jan. 8. A fourth declared candidate, Del. Aisha N. Braveboy (D-Prince George’s), said she had a cash balance of nearly $43,000 but reported spending no money on her campaign.
No Republicans have announced bids for attorney general, but the state party says it is continuing efforts to recruit a candidate.