WASHINGTON – Maryland House incumbents have just under $3 million on hand for their re-election campaigns, 20 times as much as their challengers had in the bank at the end of 1999, according to campaign finance reports.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, led the incumbents with $600,000 in the bank on Dec. 31, according to Federal Election Commission reports. Democrat Terry Lierman had the most of any challenger with just over $50,000 for his bid to unseat Rep. Connie Morella, R-Bethesda.
Most of the 30 challengers did not even raise the $5,000 that would require them to make an FEC filing. While they were not deterred by their lack of financing, political analysts said already tough challenges would be nearly impossible without heavy funding.
“I can’t think of any incumbents that have any serious challengers,” in Maryland, said Brad Coker, director of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research.
Rob Richie, executive director of the Center for Voting and Democracy, agrees. He said the last time there was a competitive House race in Maryland was in 1992, when the state went through redistricting.
“Based on Maryland’s history in recent elections it would be quite unlikely for a competitive race to emerge,” Richie said.
But many of the challengers are like Democrat Bruce M. Ross, who is still hopeful even though he said he did not get close to raising the $5,000 FEC minimum for his campaign to unseat the deep-pocketed Hoyer.
“I haven’t received a penny from anybody,” said Ross, a resident of Beltsville and substitute Washington schoolteacher who is running because Hoyer “has been in office too long.”
Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich, R-Timonium, had the second-highest campaign bank account among Maryland’s incumbents, while none of his five would-be Democratic challengers had raised enough to file with the FEC.
“He doesn’t have too strong of a concern [about the race],” said Steve Kreseski, Ehrlich’s chief of staff. “He just wants to go on representing the people of the 2nd District.”
Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, does not hold high-roller receptions or take money from political action committees and, consequently, had the smallest bankroll among incumbents. His administrative assistant said Gilchrest has raised the least among Maryland incumbents for 10 years now.
“He just runs grass roots, low-budget campaigns,” said Tony Caligiuri, the aide.
Gilchrest also faces one of the more successful fund raisers among the challengers. Democrat Michael J. Serabian Sr. has almost $40,000 to match against Gilchrest’s $70,000.
Serabian acknowledged the difficulty in financing an upstart campaign, but said “the important thing is that we’ve been blessed to have the money” for this campaign.
Other challengers are having troubled finding the time for fund raising due to other commitments.
Delegate Thomas E. Hutchins, R-Charles, did not file an FEC report because he did not meet the fund raising threshold for his bid to unseat Hoyer.
“Fund raising has not been the immediate objective,” said Hutchins, who will be in session with the General Assembly until April 10. Lawmakers are also prohibited from raising campaign funds when the legislature is in session. — Capital News Service reporters Sandy Alexander, Nicole Morgan, Kathryn S. Wenner and Ananda Shorey contributed to this report.