D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has raised more than $1.4 million since she announced her reelection bid in late September, campaign finance records show, a formidable early haul that could make challengers think twice about entering what is so far an uncontested race for mayor in 2018.
With the money she has raised over just 80 days, the Democrat is easily on track to meet or exceed her 2014 total of approximately $3.6 million in contributions. Her campaign chairman, Bill Lightfoot, attributed the fundraising success to energetic involvement from the mayor, who he said has attended about 40 campaign fundraising events since declaring.
"It really was her. She was energized," Lightfoot said. "She had a vision that she wanted to raise this money from individuals and not from corporations."
About 85 percent of Bowser's contributions came from individuals, who under District law are limited to giving $2,000 in citywide races. The rest came from corporations, corporation-sponsored political action committees and LLCs, according to a report filed Monday by Bowser's campaign.
While most of Bowser's donations came from individuals, many of those people are affiliated with prominent D.C. businesses. For example, 16 employees of the energy company Pepco Holdings donated a combined $10,250, campaign finance records show, while 12 employees of the law firm Holland and Knight gave a combined $17,100. Eleven employees of real estate company WC Smith gave $6,900.
Lightfoot said the campaign does not yet have a specific fundraising goal but will adapt according to whether any serious challengers emerge for the Democratic primary in June — which typically decides elections in the District — or for the general election.
"There's not an absolute number in mind," he said. "It depends on the level of competition and the resources the mayor needs to communicate her message in a competitive race."
Bowser's campaign committee has so far spent about $68,000.
With six months until the primary, the outlook for the mayor is mostly positive.
A June poll by The Washington Post found that she had a 67 percent approval rating among District residents. That support, while broad, was not universally strong. Some 20 percent of Washingtonians surveyed said they strongly approved of her performance, while 47 percent "somewhat" approved.
The poll also found that in a hypothetical three-way Democratic mayoral primary, she would capture 50 percent of the support among registered Democratic voters, followed by former mayor and current D.C. Council member Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) with 27 percent and Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) with 10 percent.
Racine has since announced that he will not enter the mayor's race and will instead seek reelection as attorney general.
The competitiveness of the mayoral election could hinge on whether Gray — whom Bowser defeated in 2014 — seeks a rematch. Gray returned to city hall this year after winning the Ward 7 council seat and has had a high-profile run as chairman of the council's health committee.
However, he could still face lingering distrust citywide from a federal investigation into illegal financing of his 2010 mayoral campaign. Gray was not charged in that probe, which led to guilty pleas by six people, including some of his associates.
Gray has said he is considering a mayoral run but has not reached a decision.