By Sandy Alexander
WASHINGTON – Republican Rep. Connie Morella and Democratic challenger Ralph Neas have already raised more than $100,000 each for a likely rematch in Maryland’s 8th District in 2000.
Between Jan. 1 and June 30, Morella raised $123,395 in contributions compared to Neas’ $109,902, according to Federal Election Commission reports.
But Morella’s $303,851 cash on hand is almost three times as much as Neas’ $103,581, because of money she carried over from last year’s campaign, according to the reports. In that election, Morella took 60 percent of the vote to Neas’ 40 percent.
Neas also has yet to repay $91,000 in loans he and his wife made to his campaign committee last year, but that committee is separate from the one raising funds for the 2000 race.
Neas is “making a concentrated effort to really get out there and get on the map,” said campaign adviser Tom Moore. He said that Neas was not in a position to raise funds early for the 1998 race because of the huge amount of groundwork involved with starting a campaign.
This time, Neas’ campaign had people driving around picking up checks the night before the June 30 FEC filing deadline in order to reach their goal of $100,000 in the bank, a benchmark that means the campaign is off to a good start, Moore said.
At this point in the 2000 election cycle, the two candidates have different types of contributors.
Political action committees contributed $76,750 to Morella’s campaign while $46,645 came from individuals, according to FEC documents. Neas reported $101,627 in individual contributions and $3,500 from PACs. The rest of his total came from political party committees, transfers from other committees and offsets to operating expenditures.
Even though the biggest chunk of Morella’s money has come from PACs, Mary Ann Estey said that plenty has also come from individual donors. One fund raiser took in $10,000 to $12,000 at $50 per person, so “that’s a lot of people,” said Estey, who noted that PACs can give up to $5,000 while individuals are limited to $1,000 per candidate.
What PAC support Morella has comes from environmental causes, women’s issues and federal employee groups, among others, who want to keep the congresswoman in office, Estey said.
PACs generally support House incumbents because those people are very likely to be re-elected, said Paul S. Herrnson, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland.
“PACs are access-oriented. They give money to candidates because they want to influence policy,” said Herrnson, who wrote “Congressional Elections: Campaigns at Home and in Washington.”
Herrnson said for Neas to have raised $3,500 from PACs at this point is pretty good for a challenger. In 1998, typical House incumbents received 39 percent of their total funding from PACs, or about $321,000, while challengers typically received about 14 percent from these groups, or a little less than $38,000.
Neas has been focusing on raising money from individuals and talking to people who helped him in the past, said Moore.
Herrnson said candidates have to “run two campaigns: one campaign for votes, one campaign for money.”
Moore acknowledged as much, but said the emphasis on fund raising is unfortunate.
“Ralph would much prefer talking to people about the concerns in their lives, not the balances in their checkbooks,” he said. “But this is what we have to do.”