By Adam Pagnucco.
Tracking fundraising for publicly financed candidates is challenging because it is a moving target. Unlike traditional candidates, who file according to the state’s regular reporting schedule, publicly financed candidates report whenever they ask for public contributions in addition to scheduled filings. So at any one time, the latest tabulations are snapshots taken at different dates. With all of that said, the latest reports for County Executive candidates show two things. First, Council Members Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, both of whom have been involved in local politics for decades, have done very well in public financing. But second, former Rockville Mayor and planning staffer Rose Krasnow, who started much later than either of them, is about to pass Leventhal in cash balance.
In explaining the above statement, let’s review how to read campaign finance reports. Candidates in the traditional system report the equivalent of a cash flow statement. They list a starting cash balance, money coming in, money going out and an ending cash balance. That’s it. Publicly financed candidates list those things too, but they also report the amount of new public contributions they are requesting. Those contributions have not been received and are thus not part of the ending cash balance. They might show up on the next statement, provided that the state approves the requested contribution and does not change the amount. (In fact, the state can and does change requested public contributions after reviewing them and even sometimes disqualifies them.)
On March 6, Krasnow reported a cash balance of $41,668 and had two outstanding requests for public contributions totaling $245,794. If those requests are met, her cash balance will be $287,462 (minus any future spending). On March 20, Leventhal reported a cash balance of $198,585 and had two outstanding requests for public contributions totaling $53,500. If those requests are met, his cash balance will be $252,085 (minus any future spending). In other words, Krasnow is on pace to have roughly $35,000 more in the bank than Leventhal.
We show the latest financial standings for all seven Executive candidates below. Note the differences in last date filed.
There are two reasons why Krasnow is about to pass Leventhal in cash balance. First, she qualified for public funds in 109 days, much faster than either Leventhal (278 days) or Elrich (209 days). Second, she has not started to spend serious money yet. Her burn rate (total spent divided by total raised) is just 9%. Leventhal’s burn rate is 48%, meaning that he has spent almost half the money he has raised. Leventhal has raised more money than Krasnow and has a much more geographically diverse base of support. But his decision to spend big early has allowed Krasnow to vault past him in just five months.
Meanwhile, Marc Elrich keeps chugging along. He is dominating in small contributions from the critical Democratic Crescent area and is cleaning up on progressive endorsements. He has a base of supporters among progressives, people who oppose development and Downcounty residents who will never abandon him. So Elrich must be delighted that he is running against five capable candidates who have so far not been able to knock each other out of the race. As long as all five remain viable, Elrich won’t have to add a lot to his existing base to win.
Disclosure: The author is a publicly-listed supporter of Roger Berliner for Executive.