Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Campaign Finance Reports, Pre-Primary 1: County Council

Following are summaries of candidates’ campaign finance filings for the period of 1/14/10 through 8/10/10, along with our take on what they mean. Money isn’t everything, but it’s a meaningful ingredient of any campaign.

County Council

Council District 1
Challenger Ilaya Hopkins outraised incumbent Roger Berliner by two-to-one, but Berliner started with a six-digit war chest. He has more than double her cash-on-hand. Hopkins’s mailers will have a hard time breaking through the crowded mailboxes in Bethesda’s State Legislative District 16, while Berliner benefits from name recognition as a three-time candidate. These reports buttress the conventional wisdom that Berliner will win, with the only question being his margin of victory.

Council District 2
No one has any real money here. Delegate Craig Rice (D-15) and former Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson raised about the same amount of money in their late-breaking campaigns. But Rice started with a small cash kitty and has about twice Hanson’s cash on hand. Sharon Dooley has always been a poor fundraiser and the other candidates’ finances are non-existent.

Council At-Large
Four stories can be seen in the data. First, incumbents Duchy Trachtenberg and Nancy Floreen have abundant media budgets for the final weeks of the race. We do not believe that Trachtenberg has been spending her money effectively, but we will elaborate more on that later in the week. Second, incumbent George Leventhal had the highest burn rate of any candidate, with much of his funds spent on his “Community Conversations” events. For his sake, we hope the return from those events justify their expenditures, as Leventhal has less cash on hand than two of the challengers. Third, Riemer loaned himself $50,000 and Becky Wagner’s husband has loaned her campaign $95,000. Clearly, both challengers are placing serious bets on victory. Fourth, Riemer led all at-large candidates in outside contributions. Yes, the incumbents hit up their donors last year, but Riemer’s supporters have to feel good about his results. The four incumbents plus Riemer and Wagner will all have the resources they need to communicate their messages, guaranteeing a compelling finish to the election.

Other Candidates
Just because district incumbents Phil Andrews, Nancy Navarro and Valerie Ervin do not have competitive primaries does not mean that they have no stake in the election outcome. Andrews and County Executive Ike Leggett could well aid incumbent Marc Elrich’s mail budget. Ervin and Navarro could help their endorsed challenger, Riemer. Former County Executive Doug Duncan has already given $4,000 each to Leventhal and Floreen, $3,000 to Wagner, $2,500 to Hans Riemer and $2,000 to Ilaya Hopkins. (Duncan’s contribution to Riemer is interesting given the fact that Riemer criticized the budgetary decisions made in his last term at a recent debate.) Tensions among some of the candidates and their supporters are on the rise – especially involving increasing friction with Trachtenberg – meaning that money could start changing hands.

Tomorrow, we’ll cover State Legislative Districts 14, 15, 16 and 17.