Monday, February 01, 2010

Campaign Finance Shorts, Part One

Starting today, Adam and Marc will briefly review the fundraising totals in Montgomery County and elsewhere. We’ll dig in more on selected races in the future.

County Offices

Adam: Roger Berliner looks ready to take on Ilaya Hopkins or anyone else trying to throw him out. Mike Knapp looks like a candidate who has not made up his mind to run for re-election. Potential Knapp challenger Sharon Dooley may not be able to raise enough to knock him off if he does. Gaithersburg/Germantown Chamber of Commerce President Marilyn Balcombe loaned herself $2,425, began graphic design and bought a website domain name for a run in case Knapp leaves his seat. Phil Andrews’ fundraising is solid considering that he rejects contributions from both developers and PACs. Navarro fortified her account with a $30,000 loan because she will be running her third race in three years. (When is the last time that happened in Montgomery County?) Valerie Ervin had a larger gross take than any other incumbent except Duchy Trachtenberg and spent most of it. Even so, she is a popular incumbent whose influence transcends her district and she is a lock to return.

Marc: Mike Knapp’s small sum will certainly not put to rest rumors that he is considering retiring. By comparison, he raised $86,000 during the same period four years ago. None of the district candidates have announced challengers yet and some of these fundraising totals might scare away potential foes.

Adam: On the at-large side, Trachtenberg’s ability to snap her fingers and conjure up hundreds of thousands of dollars of out-of-state money is the best thing she has going for her. She could very well spend half a million dollars this year. George Leventhal and Nancy Floreen are proven fundraisers and vote-getters. Floreen is the only current member of the council who has won twice without the Apple Ballot and she could very well get it this time around. Leventhal finished first in the 2006 Democratic primary and has support from a wide coalition including business, labor and many others. Both Leventhal and Floreen appear headed for re-election. Neither Becky Wagner nor Jane de Winter has shown much ability to raise money yet for what is always a very expensive race. Wagner’s friends in the business community should help her do better. Marc Elrich never raises a lot of money and compensates for it with an extensive grass-roots volunteer base. Elrich’s supporters are true believers and will work hard for him on the doors and the street corners. He does need to be wary of getting swamped by strong fundraising performances by the other incumbents and challenger Hans Riemer, who raised over $85,000 of non-Maryland money for his 2006 District 5 open seat contest. And that was before Riemer went to work on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

Marc: Duchy Trachtenberg’s impressive fundraising changes the dimensions of the at-large race considerably. So does Councilwoman Navarro’s endorsement of Marc Elrich, as it indicates the council race will not be dominated by two slates roughly along the lines of the Council President vote.

There is a lot of buzz on Becky Wagner because of her background and her broad network throughout the County. But her fundraising so far does a surprisingly poor job of reflecting that. Among her contributions was $3,000 from MCGEO, which is a good start to what many expect to be strong union support for her.

Marc Elrich, who is known for running his campaigns on a shoestring budget, raised more than both of the at-large challengers who reported. By comparison, he had $11,000 at this time in the last cycle.

Adam: County Executive Ike Leggett has more than enough money to deal with any challenger other than former County Executive Doug Duncan or Ervin, neither of whom has indicated any plan to run against him. The lack of any declared opponent to Leggett is an interesting and overlooked part of the 2010 election.

Marc: Although I hate to disagree with Adam, among the many Duncan rumors I have heard is that might challenge Leggett. He still has a sizeable sum in the bank and his distaste with the current leadership in Rockville and Annapolis is no secret. But any challenge to Leggett is unlikely and Leggett probably won’t exhaust his war chest. That will lead to endless speculation after the election about whether Leggett will decide to run for a third term or another office.

District 14

Adam: Senator Rona Kramer’s total does not mean very much since she can access the vast Kramer family fortune if she faces real trouble. Delegates Anne Kaiser and Karen Montgomery are solid incumbents. Delegate Herman Taylor may be running for Congress against Donna Edwards, but if he changes his mind to run again for his current Delegate seat, he will have to deal with challenger Craig Zucker. Zucker ran a strong campaign in 2002 and has waited patiently for his next opportunity. He is doing so well financially that he could conceivably cause problems for the incumbents if Taylor came back.

Marc: Delegate Herman Taylor has indicated he is running for Congress. No federal report is up yet. All the funds Taylor raised in his state account in 2009 he turned around and spent to promote himself.

Craig Zucker has an impressive total, with more cash on hand than one of the incumbents and a little less than the other. But the best news for Zucker is that there do not appear to be any other challengers in the district actively raising money. He has also lined up strong union support, with $20,000 of his donations coming from union PACs.

Eric Luedtke, who cut short his campaign for the State Senate, raised around $5,000 in only six weeks of fundraising. While not a candidate in 2010, Luedtke will be back in the future. (Full disclosure, I donated to Luedtke).

More tomorrow!