Maryland’s Big Money Politics- Hogan Shatters a Record

If Maryland’s Gubernatorial race can be compared to sports, yesterday, pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training. We now have our first, real, tangible insight into the race for Governor: campaign finance disclosures. Sure, math and money may not be the sexiest topics, but, more than just a number on a page, the disclosures tell us about the relative health of campaigns going forward. If yesterday’s disclosures are any indication, Governor Larry Hogan is off to a commanding lead, but that this will likely be one of the most expensive political cycles in Maryland’s history.

Full disclosure: I’ve donated to Governor Hogan. You can find out more about his campaign here.

Hogan Sets a Record

Governor Larry Hogan posted a record-shattering (by our review of past campaign account numbers) eight million dollars cash-on-hand with Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford pulling in a million in his account. That gives the Hogan re-election bid a net of right-around nine million dollars coming into election year.

For reference, we looked back at previous Gubernatorial races. Martin O’Malley, the last Democrat to govern Maryland, looks to have had about five million dollars on-hand on his best fundraising day. It’s important to note that we are using the “cash-on-hand” number in this article because, in our view, it’s the only one that matters at this stage. In January of a Federal Midterm election year, very few people are paying attention to politics. What this means is that no matter what you’ve spent already, most of that is just prologue to what’s really needed going forward, especially to challengers: positive name identification.

So, how do Governor Hogan’s challengers line up?

Former NAACP Chairman and Bernie Sanders-endorsed Ben Jealous has $398k. Prince George’s County Executive and current frontrunning Democrat (according to extremely early polling) Rushern Baker has $631k. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has $2M. Lawyer Jim Shea has $1.3M. DC-native Krish Vignarajah has $272k. Author Alec Ross has $445k.

By our rough math, the Democrats have a combined total of a little over five million dollars between them. Obviously, that’s a bunch of cash, but it’s still about four million dollars shy of Hogan’s massive campaign chest. Practically, this means that the Governor, who by default starts with better name identification by voters, also has the upper hand with the ability to reach voters with his message. Money, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t “buy” elections, but it does help you to get your message to reach voters.

The fact that the Democrats have raised five million dollars among themselves doesn’t matter much for the general election at this point. There should be no doubt that, once the Democrats crown a winner in the primary, that person will fill their coffers to the brim. The big issue at the moment is: who will the Democrats pick? And, again, that’s why the money matters. The “big names” on the Democratic side, Baker and Kamenetz are “big names” because they have been county executives for populous counties. Interestingly, both have the same challenge: to break into the other’s market (Kamenetz going from Baltimore to DC and Baker going from DC to Baltimore). The other candidates have to find their core constituencies as well. Jealous has done this by appealing to the Bernie Sanders wing of the Party.

It will be interesting to see how far to the left the Democrats are willing to swing in the primary knowing that Hogan is a centrist who could easily block out a far-left candidate in the general election. The problem that the Democrats face, and it’s not unique, is that the primary election voting demographic is almost always more partisan than the general public. In layman’s terms? The Democrats need to move left to win the primary because left-wing people are more likely to be over-represented as voters.

Other races are also making waves in Maryland.

Al Redmer

The race to replace Kevin Kamenetz as Baltimore County Executive is one to watch. Huge fundraising numbers among Democrats Vicki Almond ($616k), Jim Brochin ($765k) and John Olszewski, Jr. ($540k) guarantee that it will be a primary war. On the Republican side, Hogan-backed insurance commissioner Al Redmer (his website is here) has $122k versus “Baltimore County’s Donald Trump” (his words) Pat McDonough with $20k.

The Baltimore County race is particularly important because it will be a major swing county for the Gubernatorial election. If Hogan does well in Baltimore County, it can severely curtail a Democrat’s shot at unseating him. If Redmer is the candidate on the GOP side, his background and strong support of the Governor would be a positive for the Hogan campaign.

There is also going to be a fight among Democrats over whether to keep embattled State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby in power in Baltimore City. Mosby, who has been widely criticized as incompetent and ineffective, nevertheless has soaked in praise for her quick indictment of police in the Freddie Gray case. Of course, Mosby’s office couldn’t secure a conviction in any of the cases, but, her rush to charge police officers was credited with diminishing tensions following the Baltimore riots.

Mosby, who has $291k on-hand, is running against successful attorney Ivan Bates ($184k) and former Baltimore City Assistant State’s Attorney and Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah who has a whopping $412k on-hand (his largest donor? Himself. A $250k loan pads his campaign coffer).

A few Senate races to watch

Every seat in the Maryland General Assembly is up for re-election this year. Republicans, buoyed by Governor Hogan’s popularity and the need to break the Democrat’s supermajority in both house of the General Assembly are pushing hard to take several State Senate seats around the State. We’ll be looking at some of these in more depth as the year unfolds. Two of particular note today are the eighth and the forty-second.

In Maryland’s eighth legislative district, Republican Delegate Christian Miele (here) is taking on incumbent Democrat Kathy Klausmeier. Miele has nearly $87k on hand versus Klausmeier’s $194k.

In Maryland’s forty-second district, Delegate Chris West (here) is looking to pick-up the Senate seat being vacated by Jim Brochin. West has $243k on-hand versus rival Democrats Gretchen Maneval ($82k) and Robbie Leonard ($12k).

Going Forward

There’s no doubt that the political season has started in Maryland. As the General Assembly continues to meet, expect for things to stay (relatively) quiet. The Gubernatorial Democrats will try to focus on Hogan. However, these attacks can only last so long—they’re going to need to start throwing punches among themselves. Once you see the gloves come off, expect an expensive, no-holds-barred, political fight.

As always, we are excited to watch.

Matt McDaniel

Attorney and Political Commentator

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