O'Malley has financial upper hand over Ehrlich in Md. governor's race

Candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s campaign has less than $2.1 million in the bank.
Candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s campaign has less than $2.1 million in the bank. (Jacquelyn Martin - AP)
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By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 14, 2010

Former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) raised about as much money in recent months as Gov. Martin O'Malley but has less than one-third of what the Democratic incumbent has in the bank, according to figures released by the two campaigns.

Ehrlich, who announced plans in April to win his job back, said Friday that he has collected $3.2 million in contributions. That about matches the $3.3 million that O'Malley announced earlier this week for the same seven-month reporting period, which ended Tuesday.

But those figures belie O'Malley's strong financial upper hand heading into the final months of a campaign in which both sides are expected to turn increasingly to TV advertising to get their messages across.

Ehrlich spokesman Andy Barth said his campaign has less than $2.1 million in the bank; O'Malley announced this week he has $6.7 million on hand.

In an e-mail Friday to supporters, Ehrlich's finance chairmen played up the near parity in recent fundraising, which they called "great news." O'Malley aides, meanwhile, pointed to the large imbalance in bank accounts and questioned how Ehrlich could have spent more than $1 million during the period without airing a single TV ad.

O'Malley has been airing television ads in the Baltimore region for several weeks.

Finance reports that are due next week to the State Board of Elections will provide details on both the fundraising and spending by the campaigns.

An e-mail from Ehrlich's finance chairmen said his campaign had exceeded a $3 million goal for the period, with more than 18,000 donations from more than 13,000 supporters.

"That's an incredible show of support!" wrote Ehrlich finance co-chairmen John Reith and Elaine Pevenstein.

When Ehrlich began the race in April, he had very little money in a campaign account that he had kept open since his 2006 loss. O'Malley, by contrast, started raising money for his reelection shortly after his 2006 victory.

By law, sitting governors are not allowed to raise money during legislative sessions. O'Malley resumed his fundraising after this year's session ended in early April, around the same time Ehrlich announced his candidacy.

O'Malley campaign manager Tom Russell said that O'Malley's 3-1 advantage in cash on hand puts him in "a strong position to win in November" and said he was surprised by how low Ehrlich's figure was.

"It appears the Ehrlich campaign suffers from the same problem that the Ehrlich administration had," Russell said. "They just spend too much money."

Though Ehrlich has not aired TV ads, he maintains a sizable senior staff and has been engaged in heavy use of social media and Web-based advertising.

In comments to reporters this week, Ehrlich suggested that money will not play as much of a role in this year's race as it did in 2006 when he outraised O'Malley.

"I do not in my heart believe this will be a race where money comes in and wins it," Ehrlich said Wednesday.

At this point in the 2006 campaign, Ehrlich reported having about $8.6 million on hand, while O'Malley had about $5.1 million.

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