By Adam Pagnucco.
The June campaign finance reports are in and they will be the last ones available prior to the primary. Today, we’ll look at the County Executive race. A note on methodology. First, we calculate total raised and total spent across the entire cycle and not just over the course of one report period. Second, we separate self-funding from funds raised from others. Self-funding includes money from spouses. Third, for publicly financed candidates, we include public matching fund distributions that have been requested but not deposited in raised money and in the column entitled “Cash Balance With Requested Public Contributions.” That gives you a better idea of the true financial position of publicly financed campaigns.
Below is our fundraising summary for the County Executive candidates. The numbers for Robin Ficker presume he has qualified for public matching funds but we have not heard definitively whether he has.
It’s official: David Blair has broken Steve Silverman’s 2006 spending record of $2 million in an Executive race. (Sorry Steve but you knew it wouldn’t last forever!) Blair’s $3 million in spending, mostly self-financed, exceeds the $2.1 million combined total so far reported by the other candidates.
Marc Elrich has excelled in public financing and has also had the good fortune to see the second-best financed candidate (Roger Berliner) going negative in TV and mail against the best-financed candidate (Blair). Combine that with the attack strategy of Progressive Maryland and Elrich can use his own money to promote himself and let others do the dirty work of bringing Blair down. It couldn’t get any better for Elrich.
Speaking of the attacks on Blair, the scale of them is becoming clear. Berliner has spent $51,048 on mail and $391,234 on TV, all of which had negative messaging about Blair. The Progressive Maryland Liberation Alliance PAC has so far raised $100,000, most of it in union money, to oppose Blair. The combined amount between the two – $542,282 – is likely the most money ever spent on attacking a candidate for County Executive and the race is not over. To our knowledge, none of the other Executive candidates has been targeted by negative TV commercials or negative mail.
The other three Democratic candidates – George Leventhal, Rose Krasnow and Bill Frick – are struggling to compete with limited resources. Leventhal has had money problems for the entire campaign but he is working his heart out. That plus his longevity and diverse base of supporters get him into the mix but he is still a long shot to win.
Rumors have swirled for weeks about labor polling and MCGEO President Gino Renne confirmed them to Bethesda Magazine on Friday. Renne said that Elrich and Blair were “neck and neck” in a number of polls and said, “When you combine all the different polls, it’s a good solid snapshot of what’s going on… I would say it’s statistically insignificant [between Elrich and Blair]. It’s all about who can get their voters to the polls. If the election were today, I’d have to call it a toss-up.”
We have written about Elrich’s base before: it’s a combination of anti-development activists, progressives and people living in and near Takoma Park. But Blair is developing a base too by consolidating those who want a different direction in county government. Frick and Krasnow have a similar message but they don’t have the money to make it stick like Blair does. And so this election is turning into a contest between different visions of change: a move towards greater progressivism or a move away from tax hikes and towards more economic development.
Who knows which side will win?