Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has 24 times as much money to spend in the final 10 weeks of his reelection campaign as Democratic challenger Ben Jealous, raising questions about whether the former NAACP president will have enough resources to compete.
Jealous and his Democratic allies said Tuesday that they plan to begin airing television ads after Labor Day to rebut the onslaught of negative messaging Republicans have put on the airwaves since early July, and they say turnout — not spending — will determine the winner in November.
But campaign fundraising tallies released this week show Hogan — who led by double digits in a recent poll — has $9 million more to spend than Jealous, a massive advantage that could drown out the Democrat’s message.
The Jealous campaign announced Tuesday that it has raised $1.1 million in the past two months and has $386,000 available to spend. Over the same period, Hogan’s campaign says it took in $2.52 million and has a cash balance of $9.4 million.
The figures underscore the uphill battle Jealous, a progressive political newcomer, faces in his bid to unseat one of the country’s most popular governors.
Hogan is swamping the airwaves with positive advertisements about his record, while the Republican Governors Association has spent more than $1.4 million on ads defining Jealous as a tax-and-spend Democrat.
Jealous, who wants to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, implement a single-payer health-care system and legalize marijuana to help pay for an expansion of prekindergarten, has not aired any ads since the primary. The Democratic Governors Association has declined to say when it might offer to help Jealous, and the outside groups that boosted his primary bid say they are raising money for him again but have yet to launch a major effort on his behalf.
“He really doesn’t have the money to be on the airwaves right now, and that really does have to change,” said Melissa Deckman, the Louis L. Goldstein professor of public affairs and chair of the political-science department at Washington College. “I’m surprised by the starkness of imbalance. . . . It’s not insurmountable. But time is running out.”
Aides to Jealous said he never expected to take in as much money as Hogan, particularly since he started much later in the election cycle and ran in a six-way Democratic primary.
“Our goal is not to outraise Larry Hogan because doing so isn’t necessary for victory,” campaign manager Travis Tazelaar said. “We only need to raise the funds necessary to effectively get our message out to the overwhelmingly Democratic electorate that will turn out in November.”
Tazelaar likened the race to the 2014 matchup between Hogan, who was considered an underdog, and then-Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D). “In the same way that the 2014 Hogan campaign was outspent in 2014 and won due to depressed turnout, the Jealous campaign will be outspent in 2018 and will win due to banner turnout and a strategic turnout and messaging operation,” Tazelaar said.
Donald F. Norris, professor emeritus of public policy at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, has closely watched Maryland politics since 1986 and said he has “never seen a statewide Democratic candidate with this kind of a deficit against a Republican candidate . . . ever.”
Norris said $386,000 isn’t enough to run a statewide campaign for the next 10 weeks, especially given the high cost of television advertising in the D.C. suburbs. “That’s $38,000 a week. That’s ridiculous. You can’t do it,” he said.
Kevin Harris, a senior adviser to Jealous, said the campaign will launch a media blitz six or seven weeks ahead of the Nov. 6 election, when voters are paying attention.
“We’re on pace for where we need to be to run ads and get our message out there,” Harris said. “We did the exact same thing in the primary. People questioned our strategy then, people questioned our campaign . . . and we won by 10 points.”
Outside groups backing Jealous helped pay to contact voters, including through mailers and digital and television advertising, during the primary campaign.
Sheila O’Connell, who chairs Maryland Together We Rise, said that the group plans to raise more over the next 10 weeks than the $1.2 million it generated to boost Jealous during the primary, and that it has taken in $410,000 so far.
The group recently launched one digital ad accusing Hogan of embracing U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and another introducing Jealous to voters.
Meanwhile, the Republican Governors Association has spent more than $2.2 million on Hogan’s behalf this year, according to the group’s Aug. 8 campaign report. More than $1.4 million went to the negative television ad blitz against Jealous, which Democratic Governors Association spokeswoman Melissa Miller called an example of “desperate early spending.”
But RGA spokesman Jon Thompson said the group has no plans to relent, citing a motivated Democratic base nationwide and the 2-to-1 registration advantage Democrats hold over Republicans in Maryland. “We’re not going to come off TV anytime soon unless we see that Governor Hogan has really pulled away,” Thompson said.
Maryland Democrats are trying to rebut Hogan’s messaging by holding conference calls with reporters. On Tuesday morning, for example, legislative leaders and Maryland Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Matthews spent 40 minutes arguing that a digital ad Hogan released Monday takes credit for a Democratic initiative the governor did not develop or help pass. Matthews said such messages will go straight to voters soon.
“You’re going to see a paid media campaign coming forward after Labor Day,” she said. “The state party needs to be the truth squad on Larry Hogan.”