Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda) raised far more money last year than those he's competing with to be the next county executive of Maryland's most populous county, according to campaign reports filed this week.
Sizing up who is viable and who isn't is somewhat colored this year by the debut of the county's public-financing system, which has different reporting requirements.
Berliner, who is not seeking matching funds, raised more than $550,000 in 2017 and reported a cash balance of $483,000. Roughly a quarter of his 676 total donations were for $1,000 or more, with 28 donors maxing out at the $6,000 limit. Roughly 90 percent of donations came from inside Maryland, with the same amount coming from individuals.
Berliner's donors include two high-profile lawyers, Abbe Lowell and Jamie Gorelick, as well as developers including the Lerner family, owner of the Washington Nationals, and former county planning board head Royce Hanson.
Candidates' ties to regional business interests have often come up as a wedge among the seven candidates vying to succeed Isiah Leggett (D) in November, although the other two candidates who are eschewing public financing reported large contributions from influential business people as well.
Potomac businessman David Blair, the last candidate to enter the race, raised more than $500,000, including a $300,000 loan to himself, and reported a cash balance of about $351,000.
Twenty-one of his 226 donations hit the $6,000 limit, with about two-thirds of contributions coming from Marylanders. Blair, a former health-care executive, reported large donations from members of the business community, including health-care executives and D.C.-based developer Adam Bernstein of The Bernstein Companies.
Council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large) reported $314,000 cash on hand, a combination of donations and public matching funds.
As of Dec. 31, Elrich had received a total of $316,146 in matching funds. He is requesting an additional $40,000, which would bring total campaign donations and matching funds to $440,000. (For candidates receiving matching funds, this week's finance reports do not contain a comprehensive count of all donations.)
State Del. C. William Frick, who is not seeking public funds and cannot raise money during the legislative session in Annapolis, raised $190,000 in 2017 and reported a cash balance of $155,000. Nine of Frick's 295 donors gave the maximum $6,000, including members of the family of David Trone, who is running for Congress in Maryland's 6th Congressional District and co-founded Total Wine. There were several large contributions from developers and attorneys at prominent law firms. About 70 percent of contributions came from Maryland residents.
Under Montgomery's campaign-finance law, candidates hoping to qualify for public funds cannot accept corporate or PAC donations or donations over $150. Candidates running for county executive must reach at least 500 donations that total $40,000 to receive their first installment.
The thresholds are lower for candidates running for Montgomery County Council: District candidates must accumulate $10,000 with a minimum of 125 donations to qualify, while those running for at-large seats must hit 250 donations totaling $20,000.
Council member George Leventhal (D-At Large) is also running under the public-finance program. Leventhal reported a cash balance of nearly $180,000 and has so far received $279,000 in matching funds. Since the county campaign fund's last allotment, Leventhal has requested an additional $26,000, which his campaign said would bring his total fundraising to $377,000.
The other two county executive candidates who say they will seek public financing — Republican Robin Ficker and Democrat Rose Krasnow — have not yet met the threshold for the first installment of matching funds. Ficker reported $21,000 cash on hand in his campaign finance report, with contributions from about 480 donors.
As of Thursday afternoon, Krasnow's campaign finance report had not been posted on the State Board of Elections website. Her campaign said she had nearly 400 contributions totaling $39,000, including $33,000 from county residents.
The primary, which in deep-blue Montgomery is akin to the general election, is June 26.