Maryland politicians are having more trouble raising money than four years ago, according to fund-raising reports filed today with the state elections board.
The reports, which all candidates for state and local office were required to file by today, show that campaign contributions, like other "purchases," have been hit by the recession, and candidates from governor to county executive are feeling the pinch.
"People just don't have as much money," said Prince George's County political consultant John McDonough. "You always hear the business when asking for contributions that the economy's bad, but this time it's really true. It's much less an excuse and much more a reality this time."
Nowhere is this more evident than in the race for governor where the four Democrats and two Republicans have raised a little more than half of what candidates for governor raised at a similar point in 1978.
To date, according to reports and campaign spokesmen, the governor's race has generated a little over $1.1 million, as compared with four years ago when the candidates raised nearly $2 million.
Of the candidates for governor, incumbent Democrat Harry Hughes has raised the most, $547,000, and has $85,000 remaining. Hughes' likely Republican challenger, Anne Arundel County Executive Robert A. Pascal, has raised $333,000 to date with $15,000 left, but also has a loan of $25,000 outstanding.
As of tonight's 5 p.m. elections board closing, Hughes' opponents in the Sept. 14 primary had not filed their reports. Under law, the reports merely have to be postmarked today.
State Sen. Harry J. McGuirk (D-Baltimore) filed a partial report, listing slightly more than $69,000 in contributions. A spokesman for his campaign said that another report, which is in the mail, lists $133,000 in contributions, which would bring McGuirk's total to $202,000 with $66,000 unspent. Ocean City Mayor Harry Kelley, another Democratic contender, had not filed a report.
Four years ago, six prominent Democrats were serious candidates for governor at one point or another. Francis (Bill) Burch, then attorney general, dropped out of the race before this first deadline but still filed a report listing $411,000 in contributions. By primary day, acting Gov. Blair Lee III, perceived as the favorite, had raised nearly $1 million.
In addition to being affected by the economy, the low total in contributions reflects the fact that the governor's race has not generated a lot of interest, in part because it is not perceived to be a serious contest. Hughes is expected to release a poll this week that reportedly shows him with a substantial lead over McGuirk in the primary and over Pascal in the November general election.
Candidates for Montgomery County executive blamed relatively small contributions this year not only on the bad economic climate, but also on the number of campaigns competing for funds.
By law, individuals are prohibited from contributing more than a total of $2,500 to political campaigns.
"There are many people running for many offices," said attorney Gilbert Lessenco, campaign chairman for incumbent County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist. "Couple that with the condition of the economy, especially with so many federal workers in Montgomery County, and you find people are having trouble giving money."
Gilchrist has raised about 25 percent more money this year than he had this time four years ago, Lessenco said, but he's not done as well as expected. Much of his $96,660 reported today came from small contributions, the rest from businesses, labor unions and Democratic party activists. His finance report listed about 800 contributors. Gilchrist has spent $72,000.
His only primary challenger, media designer Wade Dunn, has raised $18,146 and spent more than $14,000.
The real surprise in Montgomery contributions came in the hard-fought GOP primary, where three tough candidates are vying for the chance to oppose Gilchrist in November. Del. Luiz R. Simmons, a moderate Republican who was thought to have alienated many of the party's traditional money-givers, emerged as the leading fund-raiser with $46,134. He has spent almost $26,000. A large part of Simmons' money came from small contributions and some large loans from friends and family members.
Simmons' fund raising outpaced that of banker Joseph C. McGrath, a political newcomer who has boasted that he would raise more than $50,000 to establish himself as a credible candidate. McGrath has raised only $37,409 -- and $15,000 of that was a loan out of his own pocket. Many of McGrath's contributions came in $1,000 donations from business leaders.
McGrath said today he is disappointed and vowed to shift his campaign gears to concentrate more on fund raising. "My goal was to have considerably in excess of that three weeks ago," McGrath said. "I'm going to change my tactics and cancel a couple of coffees and go around and pick up checks."
The third GOP contender for Montgomery executive, real estate broker John P. (Jack) Hewitt, raised $4,766 and has only $882 of that left. The report also shows the campaign owes $1,141 in debts. Hewitt said his poor financial showing was not significant, since there are only 24,000 registered Republican primary voters. "I think it's silly to raise $50,000 or $60,000 to reach 24,000 people," he said.
In Prince George's County, Democratic county executive candidate Parris Glendening reported raising $137,832 since October 1981, with a total fund-raising effort of $152,500 since the beginning of his methodical, two-year campaign. At this point four years ago, Winfield M. Kelly Jr., the main contender for executive and an incumbent, had raised about $200,000.
"But we're on schedule for where we want to be," Glendening said. "We budgeted $300,000 for the campaign and said we wanted to have half of it raised before the primary."
Only one of Glendening's three primary opponents, Arthur B. Haynes, had filed his report by press time, and Haynes said he raised only $1,300, most of it his own money.
Both of Glendening's Republican opponents, William Goodman and Ann Schoch, entered the executive race late this spring. Goodman reported raising $7,500, and Schoch, $14,500.