WASHINGTON – Maryland congressional hopefuls already have almost $2.7 million in the bank for the 2000 campaign, all but $107,000 of which is in the hands of incumbents.
In the first six months of the year, Maryland’s eight House members raised $1.15 million, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission last month.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, raised and spent the most, collecting $330,928 so far this year and spending $132,714. He had $667,592 on hand at the end of June.
Hoyer was trailed closely by Rep. Robert Ehrlich, R-Timonium, who brought in $323,270 and spent $111,273. He had $530,081 in the bank with 16 months until the election.
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, raised the least among incumbents in the state, $6,797, and had the lowest bank balance, at $53,082.
But political scientist Lawrence Rothenberg of the University of Rochester said it is too early to count winners and losers based on bank accounts.
“At this point, you shouldn’t focus that much on what the candidates have in the bank,” Rothenberg said.
“Once a candidate has enough money to run a credible House race, it’s not clear that the extra money makes that much difference at the margin in terms of predicting election outcomes,” he said.
Despite Hoyer’s considerable bankroll this early in the campaign, Republicans view him as vulnerable in his largely conservative Southern Maryland district.
Whatever Hoyer’s fund-raising skills, “he still has to run on his record,” said Maryland Republican Party Executive Director Paul Ellington. He said Hoyer is “out of sync” with constituents on matters such as IRS reform and the proposed amendment against flag burning.
Ellington said 1998 GOP nominee Bob Ostrom “ran a credible race (against Hoyer) last time. If you look at the demographics and the voter registrations, you see that this should be a Republican district.”
But Hoyer spokeswoman Deborah Dejong minimized the threat to Hoyer’s re- election.
“It must have been hard for them to say that [Hoyer is vulnerable] with a straight face,” she said, noting that Hoyer beat Ostrom 2-to-1.
“The wide margin of victory … reflects the congressman’s ability to represent a conservative district,” Dejong said.
Dejong defended Hoyer’s fund raising as “a reflection of the campaign system nationwide; it’s what is necessary to operate a serious campaign. You have to raise money early to remain competitive.”
Ostrom raised $250,484 for the 1998 race, compared to Hoyer’s $1.13 million.
Ehrlich’s funds could be used for a re-election bid or they could be the basis of a more costly run for Senate or for governor, all of which he is considering, aides say.
“All of these options require money, and to pursue any of them, fund raising has to be aggressive and successful,” said Ehrlich campaign spokesman Paul Shurick.
“Our goal was to raise a half-million by mid-year, and we met and exceeded that goal,” Shurick said.
Should he run for Senate, Ehrlich would likely face Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D- Baltimore, who raised $663,384 in the first half of this year and held $704,639 at the end of June.
The only other race that is at all close in fund-raising is the likely 8th District rematch between Rep. Constance Morella, R-Bethesda, and Democrat Ralph Neas.
Neas spent $810,258 to Morella’s $884,238 in the 1998 race, but he was only able to win 40 percent of the vote against her, the closest of all the congressional campaigns in the state last year.
As of June 30, Neas had raised $122,309, only a few thousand less than Morella, although he ended up with $103,591 in the bank compared to Morella’s $303,850.
In other Maryland congressional districts:
— Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, had the third-largest bankroll, at $403,001, despite relatively limited receipts of $43,332.
— Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo, raised $171,141 and had $275,460 on hand.
— Rep. Benjamin Cardin, D-Baltimore, raised $49,507 and had $250,532 on hand.
— Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, raised $97,895 and ended the period with $201,184 in the bank.