WASHINGTON – Rep. Constance Morella outspent opponent Steven Van Grack more than 20-to-1 in last year’s 8th District congressional campaign but still has about $371,000 to combat her next challenger, campaign finance records show.
Morella, who won the general election with 70 percent of the vote, spent $235,653 in the 1994 race, compared with $10,803 by Van Grack.
The Bethesda Republican also raised $256,998 last year to Van Grack’s $15,802, according to recent reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
“We were successful in raising money but we also spent money judiciously,” said Bill Miller, Morella’s administrative assistant.
Van Grack, a Democrat and former Rockville mayor, refused to take contributions from political action committees, national party organizations or individuals giving more than $100.
He said he had hoped his low-budget campaign would attract support because people would know that he’d be equally frugal with their tax dollars.
“I thought people wanted that so badly that it would be an attraction in itself,” Van Grack said. “But people never got the message because I didn’t have the money to get the message out.”
His campaign ended the year $8,163 in debt to Van Grack’s personal account.
Morella received about 54 percent of her money last year, some $137,495, from PACs.
“I think this campaign we took more PAC contributions than we have in the past, but we try to limit them to about 40 percent,” Miller said.
But Morella also received a significant number of contributions of less than $200 from individuals, Miller said. “Those are really the backbone of the campaign,” he said.
The FEC report listed $107,364 in individual contributions, but did not specify how many were $200 or less.
Morella’s campaigners had anticipated a difficult election because Van Grack “was a credible opponent,” Miller said. Van Grack, a lawyer, was mayor of Rockville from 1985 to 1987.
Since November, he has returned to his job as a trial lawyer for Van Grack, Axelson, Williamowsky and Jacobs, a Rockville firm that also employs Len Elmore, a former University of Maryland basketball star. Van Grack said he “loves being a lawyer” but would not rule out a future challenge against Morella.
“People have approached me about running again,” Van Grack said. “It’s certainly something that I will consider doing, whether against Connie Morella … or against someone else.”
If he runs again, Van Grack said he will accept money from more sources than he did last year.
“I would certainly take more money but I would place more severe (financing) restrictions on myself than the restrictions placed (by Congress) on all other candidates,” he said.