WASHINGTON – If money talks, then Marylanders are shouting their early support for Al Gore for president in 2000, campaign finance records show.
Maryland residents poured more than $400,000 into Gore’s presidential campaign in the first three months of 1999, almost twice the amount of Maryland money donated to the other 10 presidential contenders combined, according to Federal Election Commission records provided by the Center for Responsive Politics.
The leading GOP presidential aspirant, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, received less than $90,000 from Marylanders during the same period, the records show. Other candidates receiving early donations from state contributors include Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. ($64,400), former Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J. ($57,050), former Republican Vice President Dan Quayle ($18,800) and former GOP Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole ($15,000). Former Reagan White House adviser Gary Bauer, former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander, former Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., and conservative GOP commentator Patrick Buchanan all received less than $10,000 from state contributors. Steve Forbes reported no Maryland contributions. Linda Williams, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland who specializes in public opinion and elections, was not surprised by Gores big fund-raising lead in a state that is nearly 2-1 Democratic. People who donate money to presidential candidates before the primaries are more concerned with “who they think can win” the nomination than they are with voting records, and Marylanders may believe that Gore is the “heir apparent” to President Clinton’s eight-year reign, she said. Ronald Walters, a government and politics professor at the University of Maryland, pointed to the “value of incumbency playing itself out” in the case of the vice presidents fund raising. But Walters expects Maryland money to Bush to start going up dramatically because the state is gaining Republican strength. Paul Ellington, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said state Republicans plan to “‘out-raise’ Democrats, ‘out-recruit’ them in volunteers” and ultimately, “out-do” the Democrats in the presidential race of 2000. “Let’s face it, we haven’t even had one fund-raising activity in Maryland” for the presidential race, and a lot can change before next year, he said. Ellington said Maryland’s GOP has its first campaign fund-raising event for Bush planned later this month. Colleen Martin-Lauer, acting executive director for the Maryland Democratic Party, declined to comment. The early campaign donations have come largely from Chevy Chase, Bethesda, Potomac and Annapolis, supplying nearly 66 percent of Maryland’s total contributions to Gore and about 55 percent of the state’s money handed to Bush, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
As a result, presidential candidates are likely to “spend a lot of time courting the people in these areas,” Williams said. A troubling aspect of this geographical distribution of money is that a “few people in a few areas are really calling the shots on some critical issues, such as the presidency,” she said.