Tag Archives: campaign finance

Don’t Mess With the Real Deal

By Adam Pagnucco.

In January 2014, District 1 County Council Member Roger Berliner posted a cash balance of $52,369 in his campaign finance report. Over the prior year, he had raised just $200. Berliner was a battle-tested politician as he had defeated an incumbent to get elected in 2006 and then beat a capable challenger in 2010. But he had clearly taken 2013 off, at least from a political perspective.

That caught the attention of former At-Large Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg, who had been ousted in 2010 and was looking for a way to get back into politics. Trachtenberg filed to run against Berliner hours before the filing deadline and was sitting on a cash balance of $122,575 from the last election. She looked like a threat as she was a former incumbent, had money and brought union support and some business support into the race.

Berliner went into overdrive, raising money hand over fist and locking down his district. He wound up thrashing Trachtenberg by 57 points. But if he had shown a large cash balance, Trachtenberg might not have run against him in the first place.

Berliner’s successor, Council Member Andrew “Real Deal” Friedson, is no doubt aware of this history.

The table below shows campaign finance data for the incumbent county executive and county council members. My presentation differs from other sources in two ways. First, I show money raised and spent for the entire cycle, not just the last year. Second, I calculate burn rate, which is the percentage of money raised that has already been spent. Burn rate is important because candidates need to keep it low in the beginning to save up for large expenditures like mail at the end.

Friedson’s numbers are the obvious headline. He raised $264,870 for the cycle and has a cash balance of $284,476. His burn rate was a rock bottom 5%, meaning he spent very little compared to what he raised. We’ll get into just how astounding Friedson’s cash balance is below.

District 5 County Council Member Tom Hucker also did well, raising $100,083 and finishing with a cash balance of $175,196. Hucker was aided by the facts that he had marginal opposition in the last election and he has been raising money for a potential run for comptroller. If he runs for his current seat, his cash balance is excellent. But in a race for comptroller, he trails actual and potential candidates Delegate Brooke Lierman ($588,292 on hand), Senator Brian Feldman ($346,320), Bowie Mayor Tim Adams ($253,130) and Senator Jim Rosapepe ($207,181).

At-Large Council Member Will Jawando was the top fundraiser among county council candidates in public financing last time. But after entering traditional financing, he reported a cash balance of just $23,063. Jawando is a talented candidate and he has time to fix this, but at this moment, he doesn’t look as strong as he should.

Most of the other incumbents were in public financing last time and either have no money or have closed and not reopened public financing accounts. They don’t need to have an active public account right now as they are not eligible for county matching funds until a year before the next primary (which will be held on June 28, 2022). But they should open public accounts soon.

At-Large Council Member Hans Riemer, District 2 Council Member Craig Rice and District 4 Council Member Nancy Navarro are term limited. They can’t run for council in the next election but they could run for other offices.

Let’s return to Friedson’s huge cash balance, which was posted a year and a half before the next primary. The table below shows cash balances reported by council incumbents in traditional financing a year and a half before the next primary over the last four cycles (2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022). There are a lot of good fundraisers in here, especially the at-large incumbents who often raised more than $250,000 for their reelections. Friedson’s number smokes them all and so does Hucker’s.

If Hucker runs for reelection to his current seat, it’s hard to see him having a problem. He has represented the core of his district since he was first elected as a District 20 Delegate in 2006 and his political roots there go back much farther than that. The recipe for running in that area is to go as far left as possible and it’s difficult to get to the left of Hucker.

Friedson is a different story. Some on the left dislike his alliance with the business community (which is reflected in his fundraising) and his fiscal conservatism (at least in highly relative MoCo terms). They note that he won his first primary with 28% of the vote in an 8-candidate race. Rumors of a primary challenge have circulated for months. Friedson’s opponents should be mindful of the district’s 30-year history of electing Republicans and Democrats with moderate tendencies as well as Friedson’s status as a hometown boy.

In any event, Friedson is sending a message to critics and potential opponents with his huge war chest. It goes something like this.

You can’t outraise me. You can’t outwork me. I am going to dominate every meaningful measure of political power in District 1. Save your time and your money and focus on other races because I am going to win.

That’s the message from the Real Deal. Will it be heard?

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MoCo Ballot Issue Committee Campaign Finances, October 18

By Adam Pagnucco.

The six committees formed to advocate for and against MoCo’s ballot questions have filed their final campaign finance reports before the general election, covering the period through October 18. Let’s see where the money is coming from.

First, a quick summary of the ballot questions.

Question A: Would freeze the property tax rate but allow a unanimous vote of the council to increase it. Authored by Council Member Andrew Friedson.
See Why Progressives Should Support the Friedson Amendment.

Question B: Would remove the ability of the county council to break the current charter limit on property taxes, thereby capping property tax revenue growth at the rate of inflation. Authored by Robin Ficker.

Question C: Would add 2 district seats to the county council, thereby establishing 7 district seats and 4 at-large seats. Authored by Council Member Evan Glass.
See MoCo Could Use More County Council Districts.

Question D: Would convert the current council’s 5 district seats and 4 at-large seats to 9 district seats. Authored by Nine District for MoCo.
See Don’t Abolish the At-Large County Council Seats, Nine Kings and Queens.

Here is a summary of finances for the committees for the entire cycle through October 18.

To understand why these flows of money are occurring, it’s useful to recall the genesis of these questions. This year’s ballot question fight was joined when two questions were placed on the ballot by petition: Robin Ficker’s anti-tax Question B and Nine Districts for MoCo’s Question D, which would eliminate council at-large seats and remake the council into 9 district seats. In response to those ballot questions, the county council put two of its own questions on the ballot to compete with them: Question A (a different tax limitation measure) and Question C (which would keep the at-large seats and add two district seats). It is believed by some that if two directly conflicting ballot questions pass, they will both get thrown out, though that is not 100% certain.

Once it became clear that both Ficker’s anti-tax question and the nine districts question were going to appear on the ballot, no fewer than four new ballot issue committees were created to stop one or both of them and/or to promote the council’s alternatives. In short order, many of the county’s power players took sides in an uncommon off-year ballot question war. The players’ positions are at least as interesting as the committees’ activities themselves.

Nine Districts for MoCo, the oldest of the committees, has by far the most individual contributors but 82% of its cash funding has come from the real estate industry. In its most recent report, MoCo GOP Central Committee Member Ann Hingston made 6 more in-kind contributions totaling $993, thereby providing more evidence of the links between Nine Districts and the county Republican Party. Nine Districts’ fundraising pace has slowed as they have collected just $154 since October 4.

The competing committees have rapidly closed the gap. Three groups have paid for mail: former County Executive Ike Leggett’s group opposing Questions B and D, former executive candidate David Blair’s group supporting Question A and opposing Question B and Residents for More Representation, a group supporting Question C and opposing Question D. These groups are also paying for websites and online advertising. But they got off to a late start while Nine Districts has been campaigning for more than a year.

Below are all the major players who have contributed at least $10,000 to one or a combination of these ballot issue committees.

David Blair – $165,000
Supports Questions A and C, opposes Questions B and D
Businessman and former executive candidate David Blair is the number one spender on ballot questions. He has contributed $65,000 to Legget’s group opposing Questions B and D, $50,000 to his own group supporting Question A and opposing Question B, and $50,000 to Residents for More Representation, which supports Question C and opposes Question D. Blair’s positions mirror the positions taken by the county Democratic Party. (Disclosure: I have done work for Blair’s non-profit but I am not involved in his ballot question activities.)

Charlie Nulsen – $123,500
Supports Questions A, C and D, opposes Question B
Nulsen is the president of Washington Property Company. On June 4, he contributed $50,000 to Nine Districts to help get Question D on the ballot. On October 13, he contributed $23,500 to Residents for More Representation to defeat Question D. Nulsen could have saved more than $70,000 and achieved the same outcome by simply doing nothing. He also contributed $50,000 to Blair’s group supporting Question A and opposing Question B.

Monte Gingery – $40,000
Supports Question D
The head of Gingery Development Group has made three contributions totaling $40,000 to Nine Districts.

Willco – $40,000
Supports Questions C and D
On August 5, this Potomac developer gave an in-kind contribution of $15,000 to Nine Districts which was used to pay Rowland Strategies (their campaign firm). On October 9, Willco gave $25,000 to Residents for More Representation, which is seeking to pass Question C and defeat Nine Districts. Folks, you can’t make it up.

MCGEO – $30,000
Supports Question A, Opposes Question B, Gave Contribution to Question D
The Municipal and County Government Employees Organization (MCGEO) has made a $20,000 contribution to Montgomery Neighbors Against Question B and a $10,000 in-kind contribution to Nine Districts. MCGEO President Gino Renne is the treasurer of Empower PAC, which gave another $5,000 to Montgomery Neighbors Against Question B.

MCEA – $20,000
Opposes Question B
The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) has contributed $20,000 to Montgomery Neighbors Against Question B.

UFCW Local 400 – $10,000
Opposes Question B
This grocery store union which shares a parent union with MCGEO gave $10,000 to Montgomery Neighbors Against Question B.

The Montgomery County Democratic Party recommends voting for Questions A and C and voting against Questions B and D. The Montgomery County Republican Party recommends the exact opposite. The Washington Post editorial board opposes all four ballot questions.

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School Board Campaign Finances, October 18

By Adam Pagnucco.

The school board candidates’ last campaign finance reports prior to the general election were submitted to the state on Friday. The table below shows money raised and spent for both the primary and the general.

There are a number of things I could point to here, such as Sunil Dasgupta’s financial edge over Lynne Harris (although that has declined in the general) and the fact that incumbents Rebecca Smondrowski and Shebra Evans don’t seem to be taking their challengers very seriously. (Smondrowski’s opponent, Michael Fryar, has raised no money but was still endorsed by the Washington Post. MCEA has not endorsed in that race.)

But the big story is what I wrote the last time I looked at these reports: these candidates are basically all broke. And that is particularly striking given the fact that at least a half-million people are probably going to vote in the general election this year. It’s impossible to reach that many people on a $20,000 budget (or less).

To MoCo’s state delegation: school board candidates desperately need public financing. Please introduce legislation enabling that to happen.

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Who is Spending Money on the Ballot Questions?

By Adam Pagnucco.

The six committees formed to advocate for and against MoCo’s ballot questions have filed campaign finance reports through October 4. Let’s see who is paying for all of this – so far.

First, a quick summary of the ballot questions.

Question A: Would freeze the property tax rate but allow a unanimous vote of the council to increase it. Authored by Council Member Andrew Friedson.
See Why Progressives Should Support the Friedson Amendment.

Question B: Would remove the ability of the county council to break the current charter limit on property taxes, thereby capping property tax revenue growth at the rate of inflation. Authored by Robin Ficker.

Question C: Would add 2 district seats to the county council, thereby establishing 7 district seats and 4 at-large seats. Authored by Council Member Evan Glass.
See MoCo Could Use More County Council Districts.

Question D: Would convert the current council’s 5 district seats and 4 at-large seats to 9 district seats. Authored by Nine District for MoCo.
See Don’t Abolish the At-Large County Council Seats, Nine Kings and Queens.

Here is a summary of committee finances for the entire cycle.

Nine District for MoCo, by far the oldest committee, has raised and spent the most money. It has had far more individual contributions (252) than Ike Leggett’s Vote No on B and D (30) with no other committee reporting any. Real estate interests have accounted for 83% of Nine District’s cash contributions. Interestingly, while Washington Property Company president Charlie Nulsen and the three county employee unions were major Nine District contributors in prior reports, they have not contributed any more since July. Nine District has collected contributions from leaders of the county’s Republican Party, which has raised money for the group on its website. The group has spent money on fees for Baltimore consultant Rowland Strategies, legal fees, robocalls and advertising (especially on Facebook).

Vote No on B & D, Leggett’s committee, spent $9,610 on graphic design for printing and campaign materials and $58,437 on direct mailing. So far, this is the only expenditure by any committee on mail. (Where’s my mailer, Ike?) Two other committees have collected money but not spent it and two more have collected less than $1,000.

Here are the biggest contributors to these committees and their positions on the ballot questions.

David Blair – $100,000
Supports Question A, Opposes Questions B and D
The former county executive candidate has given $50,000 each to Leggett’s group opposing Questions B and D and his own group supporting Question A and opposing Question B.

Charlie Nulsen – $50,000
Supports Question D
The president of Washington Property Company made one $50,000 contribution to Nine District for MoCo on 6/4/20. This was a critical boost for the group as it was in the home stretch of gathering signatures to appear on the ballot.

Monte Gingery – $40,000
Supports Question D
The head of Gingery Development Group has made three contributions totaling $40,000 to Nine District for MoCo.

MCGEO – $30,000
Opposes Question B, Supports Question D
The largest county government employee union gave $20,000 to Montgomery Neighbors Against Question B and made a $10,000 in-kind contribution to Nine District for MoCo. MCGEO President Gino Renne is the treasurer of Empower PAC, which gave another $5,000 to Montgomery Neighbors Against Question B.

Willco – $15,000
Supports Question D
The Potomac developer gave an in-kind contribution of $15,000 to Nine District for MoCo which was used to pay Rowland Strategies.

UFCW Local 400 – $10,000
Opposes Question B
This grocery store union which shares a parent union with MCGEO gave $10,000 to Montgomery Neighbors Against Question B.

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Will the Council Make Public Financing More Expensive for Taxpayers?

By Adam Pagnucco.

As MoCo faces a crippling financial shortfall projected at $190 million this year and a billion dollars over the next six years, the county council will be considering increased spending in legislation tomorrow – on political campaigns. The issue at hand is a change in public financing matching formulas that would send more taxpayer dollars into politicians’ campaign funds.

As currently written, the county’s public campaign finance law sends matching funds to participating campaigns for individual contributions made by county residents up to $150. The current formulas appear below.

County Executive candidate

First $50 of individual contribution: matched by 6 public dollars for each dollar collected from a resident.
Second $50 of individual contribution: matched by 4 public dollars for each dollar collected from a resident.
Third $50 of individual contribution: matched by 2 public dollars for each dollar collected from a resident.

County Council candidate

First $50 of individual contribution: matched by 4 public dollars for each dollar collected from a resident.
Second $50 of individual contribution: matched by 3 public dollars for each dollar collected from a resident.
Third $50 of individual contribution: matched by 2 public dollars for each dollar collected from a resident.

In the current system, individual contributions are capped at $150 so no matching funds are made available for contributions greater than that amount. Individuals from outside the county may contribute up to $150 each but such donations are not eligible for matching funds. Contributions from entities other than individuals (like businesses and PACs) are prohibited for candidates in public financing. Self-funding of up to $12,000 from a candidate and spouse combined is permitted. Future contribution limits will be updated in future election cycles for inflation.

Bill 31-20, a package of changes to the public financing law, is on the council’s agenda for action tomorrow morning. For the most part, the bill makes a series of benign tweaks to the law. But it does one thing that increases the cost of public financing: it raises eligible individual contributions from $150 to $250 and creates a dollar-for-dollar public match to the hundred dollar increase. So for a candidate accepting a maximum individual contribution, the matching funds formula would be:

County Executive candidate

Old system: $150 individual contribution, $600 public matching funds, $750 total.
New system: $250 individual contribution, $700 public matching funds, $950 total.

County Council candidate

Old system: $150 individual contribution, $450 public matching funds, $600 total.
New system: $250 individual contribution, $550 public matching funds, $800 total.

How much more would this cost the taxpayers? That’s hard to estimate. The bill’s fiscal note assumes that everyone who gave the maximum $150 contribution in 2018 would give a $250 contribution if allowed and uses the 2018 election as a baseline. (Those are big assumptions, but the fiscal note is what it is!) Using those criteria, the fiscal note estimates that matching funds for $250 contributions would have generated an extra $487,034 in taxpayer costs in 2018, or a 9% increase.

Now let’s not set that number in stone. First, 2018 saw a genuinely contested county executive general election, a very rare event in MoCo politics. Second, there is no guarantee that 2022 will see as many candidates as last time primarily because there may be only one open at-large seat following three open at-large seats in 2018. Third, if Question C (which adds two district seats) passes, there will be more open seats, more candidates and more costs. So if passed, the bill’s extra costs could be higher or lower than the fiscal note’s estimate. But there will be extra costs compared to the current regime.

Why does the bill increase both the maximum individual contribution and the matching funds? There is no reason to believe that public financing levels are inadequate. Six of the nine sitting council members and the county executive used public financing two years ago. All of them faced opponents using traditional financing and still won. The winning candidate for county executive, Marc Elrich, raised $1.9 million in public financing combining the primary and general elections. Four council at-large candidates in public financing (Will Jawando, Evan Glass, Hans Riemer and Bill Conway) raised more than $300,000 each, which is comparable to past totals of leading candidates in the traditional system. Two more (Gabe Albornoz and Hoan Dang) raised more than $250,000. Jawando raised more than $400,000. Again, there is no shortage of money here.

As part of its process in considering the bill, the council surveyed eleven candidates who used public financing in 2018 on their views of necessary changes. Just three candidates recommended increasing the public matching amount and only two candidates recommended increasing the maximum donation. There was little demand for this cost increase. Nevertheless, it somehow made it into the bill. All three members of the Government Operations Committee supported raising the maximum donation from $150 to $250. Sidney Katz and Nancy Navarro voted in favor of a dollar-for-dollar match for the difference between $150 and $250 while Andrew Friedson voted against a funding match for the new hundred dollar increment.

Arranging for what could be a substantial cost increase in public financing – an increase that would be even larger if Question C passes – while at the same time adding council staff, refusing to fund collective bargaining agreements and perhaps making program cuts in the near future would not be a good look for the county council. The council is also being closely watched by advocates of Question B (which would cap property tax growth) and Question D (nine council districts), all of whom will use spending increases for politics to bolster their messages. Raising the contribution limit is one thing; it costs taxpayers nothing. But the council should hold off on changing funding formulas to spend more taxpayer money on their political campaigns.

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Will Jawando, A Man with Options

By Adam Pagnucco.

Several astute readers noticed something interesting about last week’s post on Council Member Will Jawando’s fundraising email – it led to a website allowing contributions up to $2,500. Here is what the donation page looks like.

It’s perfectly legal for Maryland candidates for state and county office to collect contributions that large, so why is this interesting? The answer is that Jawando used public campaign financing two years ago, and that permits individual contributions up to a $150 maximum. On June 23 of this year, Jawando established a traditional campaign account listing himself as chair, his wife as treasurer and his council chief of staff as campaign manager. This account allows him to accept contributions from individuals, business entities, unions and other political committees (like PACs) of up to $6,000 each per cycle. Because it’s a traditional account, its contributions are ineligible for county matching funds under MoCo’s public financing program.

Two years ago, Jawando was hugely successful in public financing. He raised a total of $422,571 for both the primary and the general elections, including $304,084 in matching taxpayer funds. Both of those figures easily led the field of council at-large candidates in 2018. In the Democratic primary, Jawando finished second behind the race’s sole incumbent, Hans Riemer, in the race for four at-large seats. Jawando finished first in Legislative District 20 (where he ran a strong but unsuccessful campaign for delegate in 2014), first in Council District 5 (which overlaps with District 20) and first in Takoma Park, Downtown Silver Spring, Glenmont/Norbeck and the Silver Spring East County zip codes (20903, 20904 and 20905). He also finished first in majority-minority precincts and in precincts where African Americans comprised at least 25% of the population.

So if he was so successful in public financing, why switch to traditional financing? Traditional accounts offer numerous advantages to those who use them, including access to PAC and union money (both in-state and out-of-state), contribution limits of $6,000 and unlimited self-funding. (Public financing accounts limit self-funding to $12,000.) Best of all, traditional accounts can be deployed to any state or county race in Maryland. Jawando can raise money for this account, survey his opportunities and then use it to run for county executive, governor, lieutenant governor or for reelection to his current seat. In contrast, public financing candidates are limited to county office and must declare which office they are seeking because executive, council at-large and district council races have different matching funds formulas and thresholds. Traditional accounts are the way to go for a candidate keeping his or her options open.

Is Jawando going to pay a price for eschewing public financing? The answer is a big fat NO. District 5 Council Member Tom Hucker used traditional financing in his 2018 election and blew out a rival who used public financing. Ben Shnider attracted huge progressive institutional support in his unsuccessful 2018 challenge to District 3 Council Member Sidney Katz despite using traditional financing. (Katz used public financing.) District 2 Council Member Craig Rice and District 1 open seat candidate Andrew Friedson both used traditional financing and won. On top of all of this, Jawando’s record on the council is unquestionably progressive as he has been a key leader on police reform and civil rights. However one feels about public financing, it’s hard to argue that Jawando doesn’t deserve progressive support – an argument that applies equally well to Hucker.

Jawando’s decision to use traditional financing is one of the most interesting developments in the embryonic 2022 campaign. He has always been a complete package as a candidate, combining good looks, excellent speaking skills, charisma, a knack for getting press, affiliation with Barack Obama (his former employer) and work ethic – and now he has a progressive record in office. How high could he go and when? That question is now on the minds of LOTS of people in MoCo politics.

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School Board Candidates Need Public Financing

By Adam Pagnucco.

This week, MoCo’s school board candidates reported their campaign finances through August 18. The results for the cycle are below. Here’s a three-word summary: they’re all broke.

Let’s put this in perspective. In 2018, seven candidates for county council at-large raised $200,000 or more to communicate with a Democratic primary electorate which ultimately totaled 134,212 voters. That means they had $1.50 or more per voter.

This year, 272,697 people of all parties voted in the MoCo primary. That was the universe of folks with whom school board candidates had to communicate. But unlike council at-large candidates, school board candidates who win primaries also have competitive general elections. In 2016 (the last presidential year), 483,429 people voted in MoCo’s general election. This year, it will be well over 500,000 voters. If the leading school board fundraiser, at-large candidate Sunil Dasgupta, is able to raise $50,000 this cycle – a very big if! – he would effectively have 6 cents per voter counting both the primary and the general.

It’s basically impossible to run an effective campaign with that little money available for that many voters.

School board races take a back seat to gubernatorial, state legislative and county races in mid-term years, to presidential races in presidential years and to congressional races in all years. The result is that candidates can’t run real races and the outcomes are driven by factors like incumbency, the Apple Ballot and the Washington Post endorsement. Holders of all three of those advantages win MoCo school board races more than 90% of the time. Hardly anyone knows these candidates at election time but the ones who win go on to oversee a $2.8 billion school system.

Public financing has pluses and minuses and we learned a lot about it in 2018. But let’s be clear. Because of the presence of other more attention-getting (and much better funded) races on the ballot, school board candidates will probably never be able to raise adequate money in the traditional system, particularly since all of them (even the district members) are elected at large. Without change, they will continue to be heavily reliant on influential endorsements and even the alphabet(!) to get elected.

And so, if we are going to have public financing for county executive and county council elections, we should definitely have it available for school board.

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Where Are They Getting Their Money?

By Adam Pagnucco.

Recently, I posted totals raised and spent by candidates for school board in the primary. Today, let’s look at the geography of contributions in the at-large race.

The at-large race, easily the most contentious MoCo school board contest since the early 1980s, has many overtones of race and class owing to its discussion of school boundaries. In MoCo, race and class are synonymous with geography. The county has huge differences in race, language and economics between its various subdivisions. Indeed, most of the county’s wealth is concentrated in a handful of zip codes. The county has noticeable racial segregation in its schools as well as significant inequity between them.

I broke down the geography for individual contributions to five candidates – Stephen Austin, Sunil Dasgupta, Jay Guan, Lynne Harris and Dalbin Osorio. (Pavel Sukhobok, the 4th-leading fundraiser, only has 7 contributors other than himself.) For each candidate, I tabulated the number of contributors and total contributed by individuals for each major local area in the county. These figures exclude self-funding, PACs, businesses and unions.

Two areas require definitions. The first is the Downcounty Crescent, the areas in and around the Beltway that play a disproportionate part in Democratic primary voting. The Crescent includes Bethesda, Cabin John, Glen Echo, Chevy Chase, Kensington, Takoma Park and the Silver Spring zip codes of 20901 and 20910. This area trends left – with some places going far left – and is largely responsible for sending Jamie Raskin to Congress. The second is Upcounty, which I define as including Ashton, Barnesville, Boyds, Brookeville, Clarksburg, Damascus, Dickerson, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Laytonsville, Montgomery Village, Olney, Poolesville, Sandy Spring and Spencerville. This area contains a greater proportion of moderate Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters than other parts of the county.

Now let’s look at the candidates.

Stephen Austin

Almost two-thirds of Austin’s contributors and 75% of his individual funding comes from Bethesda, Potomac and North Potomac. These areas are home to some of the highest-performing high school clusters in the county. Austin is a leading critic of MCPS’s recent school boundary analysis. It makes sense that parents in these areas would be skeptical of having their kids sent to other schools.

Sunil Dasgupta

Silver Spring, the county’s largest geographic unit, accounts for 28% of Dasgupta’s contributors and 31% of his individual fundraising. The rest of his contributions are well dispersed.

Jay Guan

The vast majority of Guan’s contributors are east Asian so it makes sense that his geography would match the most heavily Asian high school clusters in the county (like Wootton, Churchill, Richard Montgomery and Clarksburg). Guan lives in Clarksburg so it’s no surprise that he is the runaway fundraising leader there.

Lynne Harris

Silver Spring is Harris’s biggest source of campaign funds – by far.

Dalbin Osorio

A huge majority of Osorio’s fundraising is coming from outside the county, with most of that coming from out of state.

Here is a summary of fundraising from four key areas in this race.

And so the contribution geography reveals the appeal of each of these candidates, at least in terms of fundraising. Austin has raised the most from Bethesda and has split Potomac with Guan. Guan has raised the most from east Asians, Rockville and Upcounty. Silver Spring and Takoma Park are going with Dasgupta and (to a lesser extent) Harris, although Dasgupta has the most geographic diversity of any candidate. Osorio needs to find more contributors who live in MoCo.

It’s a shame that the State Board of Elections won’t be releasing precinct-level data in the primary because then we could see if votes follow money. Let’s hope that we can get precinct results in the general election.

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Campaign Finance Reports, School Board Primary

By Adam Pagnucco.

The second round of campaign finance reports covering contributions and expenditures in the school board race were due yesterday. They cover campaign activity through May 17 and are the last reports to be released before the June 2 primary. The table below presents cumulative totals combining the first and second reports for all candidates. Those with data marked “NA” filed affidavits stating that their campaigns did not collect or spend more than $1,000 for the reporting period.

In the at-large race, Jay Guan is the leader with $27,443 raised, followed by Sunil Dasgupta ($22,760) and Stephen Austin ($20,730). Lynne Harris, who was endorsed by the Washington Post, ranks 6th with $7,456 raised. The district races were quiet.

These are small amounts of money compared to county executive, county council and state legislative races, but Guan, Dasgupta and Austin have all done pretty well for school board candidates. Here is how their totals compare to other (relatively) well-financed school board candidacies in the primary over the last decade.

So far, the single largest expenditure by any candidate in the race is Guan’s mailing of a postcard in early May, which cost $13,861. However, the Maryland State Education Association, which has endorsed Dasgupta, sent out a glossy mailer on his behalf shortly afterwards. That mailer’s cost is not available from campaign finance records but almost certainly exceeds the cost of Guan’s mailer.

Facebook’s political ad tracker shows that Dasgupta has spent more money on Facebook ads than the rest of the at-large field combined.

So far, the most expensive Facebook ad in the race has been this one by Dasgupta which promoted some of his endorsements.

The second most expensive Facebook ad was this one by Austin attacking Harris. Austin may be calculating that if he can knock out Harris, he will enter an insider vs outsider general election against Dasgupta.

Combining his own spending with the independent expenditures of the teachers union, Dasgupta may be running the most vigorous campaign overall. Harris’s money problems are impeding her ability to publicize the Post endorsement, which should worry her supporters. Austin has done well to keep pace financially with Dasgupta despite the latter’s endorsement by multiple unions and numerous elected officials. The big question is what Austin plans to do with his $13,048 cash balance. If he had spent it on Facebook ads, he would easily have outspent Dasgupta. Either he is saving it for a last push or he is banking some money for the general election.

Following is a list of the most prominent contributors to Austin, Dasgupta, Guan and Harris.

Stephen Austin
Coalition for Better Montgomery PAC: $3,000 (Note: this contribution was criticized by One Montgomery, which earned a response from Austin.)
Alexander Bush, Chairman, Montgomery County Republican Party: $500
Pete Fosselman, Former Mayor, Town of Kensington: $100

Sunil Dasgupta
MSEA Fund for Children and Public Education: $3,500 (Note: this is the state teachers union. The county teachers union has endorsed Dasgupta.)
SEIU Local 500: $1,000 (Note: this union represents support staff in MCPS and has endorsed Dasgupta.)
Sidney Katz, Montgomery County Council Member: $250
Eric Luedtke, Delegate: $250
Jeffrey Slavin, Mayor, Town of Somerset: $250
Casey Anderson, Chair, Planning Board: $100
Aruna Miller, Former Delegate: $100
Mark Pierzchala, Council Member, City of Rockville: $100
Steve Silverman, Former Montgomery County Council Member: $100
Vaughn Stewart, Delegate: $100
Partap Verma, Planning Board Member: $100
Neil Harris, Council Member, City of Gaithersburg: $50
Dan Reed, Author, Just Up the Pike: $50
Hans Riemer, Montgomery County Council Member: $50

Jay Guan
Lily Qi, Delegate: $500

Lynne Harris
Diana Conway, President, Women’s Democratic Club: $300
Marc Elrich, Montgomery County Executive: $100
Tom Hucker, Montgomery County Council Member: $100
Jill Ortman-Fouse, Former School Board Member: $100
Al Carr, Delegate: $50

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Hogan is Blowing Out Jealous in MoCo Fundraising

By Adam Pagnucco.

Montgomery County is sometimes referred to as “the ATM of Maryland.”  That’s because it’s the largest single source of tax revenue for the state and generates much of the state aid that is sent to other jurisdictions.  But in politics, MoCo is also the ATM of statewide Democratic politicians.  U.S. Senators, Governors, Attorneys General, Comptrollers and candidates for those offices are heavily dependent on the county for political money.  Sure, they raise money from Downtown Baltimore, Roland Park, Towson, Pikesville, Owings Mills and Annapolis too, but from a fundraising perspective, nothing compares to the mansions of Chevy Chase, Bethesda and Potomac.

Now there’s a new person claiming MoCo as his political ATM.  He’s not a Democrat.  He is Republican Governor Larry Hogan, and he is blowing out the Democratic nominee, Ben Jealous.

Hogan’s fundraising edge is well known.  But what has not been previously reported is how much money he is raising from Montgomery County.  The table below shows that he has raised $13.5 million over the cycle with $1.5 million coming from MoCo.  That’s about five times the $303,376 amount that MoCo donors have given to Jealous.

Hogan’s edge in business fundraising is huge; Jealous only received three contributions from MoCo business entities totaling $1,750.  But Hogan has a 5-to-1 edge in MoCo individual contributions too and it is not solely due to big checks.  Hogan’s average contribution from MoCo individuals is $239; for Jealous, that figure is $196.  Do the rough math and it’s obvious that waaaaaaaay more people in MoCo have given money to Hogan than Jealous.

How does this compare to previous races?  Below we compare fundraising by the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial tickets over the last four cycles.  Running mate accounts are included.  MoCo results are shown at top and grand totals are shown at bottom.  All data is through June 10, the cutoff for the most recent 2018 report, to make the data comparable across cycles.

Of the prior three cycles, 2006 is the most comparable to the present day since it had a GOP Governor and a Democratic challenger.  One difference was that Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley was running against MoCo Executive Doug Duncan, who had a natural advantage in MoCo fundraising.  Even so, O’Malley did not trail Governor Bob Ehrlich by much in MoCo and had a modest advantage in total fundraising.  In the next two cycles, the Democrats blew out the GOP nominees in both MoCo and in total raised.  Interestingly, Hogan’s MoCo fundraising this cycle is similar to the amounts raised from MoCo by O’Malley in 2010 and the Anthony Brown/Ken Ulman team in 2014.  Meanwhile, Jealous’s MoCo fundraising is in the same ballpark as what Ehrlich collected from the county in 2010.

That means the Hogan-Jealous gap, both in MoCo and overall, is extremely unusual by historical standards.  It’s not surprising that an incumbent Governor would lead in fundraising.  It IS surprising that he would blow out a challenger in the number one financial stronghold for the opposing party by five to one.  And Hogan is doing that with former Maryland Democratic Party Chair and long-time MoCo player Susan Turnbull on Jealous’s ticket.

Jealous became the Democratic nominee shortly after this reporting period closed.  With his primary rivals out of the way, he should begin raising more money from MoCo and other Democratic money sources soon.  But the financial gap he has against Hogan is probably too big to be closed.  And a big reason for that is Hogan’s support from MoCo donors.

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