Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous has pulled ahead of his rivals in fundraising, solidifying his position among the front-runners to challenge a far-better-funded Gov. Larry Hogan (R) this fall.
But it is still anybody’s race, as neither Jealous nor his opponents have enough money to mount a significant media push in the expensive Washington media market ahead of the June 26 primary.
Only one, Baltimore lawyer James Shea, has more than $1 million on hand.
“There’s no question that the smart, large money appears to be staying out of the Democratic race for governor, largely because Hogan appears invulnerable and without a clear front-runner on the Democratic side,” said Keith Haller, a Maryland pollster and independent political analyst.
That leaves the candidates — including Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, who has led in early polling — with little or no ability to steer the race through large-scale television advertising, direct mailing, polling, phone banks or significant social media marketing, Haller said.
“If you’re a big-time consultant and you’re working for one of these campaigns, you’re basically taking off the table 75 percent of the tactics and techniques that you customarily would be using effectively in a major statewide campaign,” he said.
The ticket led by Jealous, a former NAACP president, raised $974,274 since mid-January, a total that easily surpassed what his opponents took in. It includes $100,000 that Jealous and his running mate, Susan Turnbull, loaned to their campaigns. Jealous and Turnbull spent money almost as fast as they took it in, disbursing $954,512 during the reporting period, most of it on staff salaries and media.
Shea’s ticket raised $671,674 during the same period, $75,000 of which was donated by Shea himself. He and his running mate, Baltimore City Council member Brandon M. Scott, have $1.4 million cash on hand — significantly more than the other Democrats, including Jealous. They have launched television advertising that they plan to continue for the remaining five weeks of the primary campaign.
Baker and his running mate, Elizabeth Embry, took in $542,867 during the reporting period, an amount that political analyst Todd Eberly described as “not impressive.”
“That suggests that the people who are voting with their wallets have not decided that he’s the front-runner in the race,” said Eberly, a political scientist at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
A candidate’s dream, Eberly said, is to post such impressive fundraising totals that potential donors to other candidates close their wallets, concluding that to contribute would be throwing money away.
“That has not happened in this race in any way,” Eberly said.
Baker’s campaign said his fundraising efforts have been limited in part by ethics reform he championed in Prince George’s that prohibits him from soliciting money from developers with business before the county. Donor money in Prince George’s is also spread thin this year because of the large number of local races, the campaign said.
“It wouldn’t be the first time a candidate has done more with less,” spokeswoman Madeleine Russak said in an email. “We plan to end up with more votes.”
Baker’s first television advertisement — featuring Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who has endorsed him — will air on cable stations in Montgomery County beginning next week. His campaign released the 30-second segment on social media Wednesday, hoping to generate some free online buzz.
Jealous, in a news release touting his fundraising totals, took aim at Baker, saying the longtime public servant “lacks the resources for significant get-out-the-vote efforts or television advertising in either the Washington DC or Baltimore markets.”
Jealous’s ticket, however, does not have significantly more cash on hand: $660,000, compared with $577,000 for Baker.
The Democrats lag far behind Hogan, who is unchallenged in the Republican primary and reported $9 million in his campaign coffers on Tuesday.
More than three-quarters of Jealous’s donations arrived from out of state, an indication that he has benefited from endorsements by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), as well national progressive groups.
“Yes, the money helps you with advertising and other things you need to do,” Eberly said. “But if you’ve got a network of donors who don’t live in your state, they’re not pushing you over the finish line on primary day.”
Other candidates, including Baker, touted that most of their contributions came from Maryland residents. But Jealous’s ticket received more in-state donations, about 1,300, than his opponents. A close second was the campaign of state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery) and his running mate, Luwanda Jenkins, who received more than 1,200 donations from inside Maryland.
Madaleno’s is the only slate that has opted for public financing, so donations they receive are matched by public money.
Because Madaleno is a state elected official, the ticket was restricted in how it could raise money during the legislative session, which ended in mid-April. In recent months, his ticket raised $181,257. That, together with earlier contributions, entitled them to receive $287,072 in public funds.
Tech entrepreneur Alec Ross and his running mate, Julie Verratti, raised $441,552 during the reporting period and had $206,000 in cash left on hand.
Former Montgomery County Council member Valerie Ervin raised $115,483. Ervin was running for lieutenant governor until her running mate, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, died unexpectedly earlier this month. State elections officials have not said whether Ervin is entitled to the money in the campaign account of Kamenetz, who had amassed $2 million as of January. From January until his death, he raised $177,790, a disclosure filed by his campaign shows.
Former Michelle Obama aide Krishanti Vignarajah and her running mate, Sharon Blake, raised $139,333 during the reporting period. The ticket had about $500,000 in cash on hand, including a $100,000 loan from Vignarajah.
Hogan raised more than $1.2 million between April 10 and May 15, amassing more money in 35 days than some of his Democratic challengers have taken in since they launched their campaigns last year.
He and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R) have nearly twice as much money on hand as their predecessors, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), had in their campaign accounts eight years ago.
Rachel Chason contributed to this report.