WASHINGTON – Led by Rep. Robert Ehrlich, R-Timonium, Maryland’s Republican members of the House of Representatives raised more money in heavily Democratic Maryland in 1999 than their Democratic counterparts.
The four Republicans — Ehrlich, Connie Morella of Bethesda, Wayne Gilchrest of Kennedyville and Roscoe Bartlett of Frederick — took in $235,454 in individual donations from Maryland residents in 1999. That was $55,000 more than the state’s four House Democrats raised here, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
The figures do not include money from political action committees or parties in the state.
Carol Arscott, of Gonzalez/Arscott Research, an independent polling firm, said that even in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 2-to-1, it is not surprising that the GOP would take in more cash.
“They’ve probably just been working hard at it,” Arscott said. “Republicans in Maryland always have to work harder.”
But she said that raising more money, earlier, does not guarantee electoral success for the GOP.
“Republicans always have a harder time getting elected to statewide office,” she said. “But they usually start fund raising earlier to try to fend off [Democratic] challengers.”
The state’s Democrats — Reps. Al Wynn of Largo, Steny Hoyer of Mechanicsville and Elijah Cummings and Ben Cardin, both of Baltimore — brought in $180,100 in 1999, over half of which was raised by Hoyer.
Brad Coker, director of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, said it is not that Democrats are poor fund raisers, but that Republican voters tend to be have more to give. “The GOP is more well off,” he said.
Ehrlich by far raised the most in individual donations among the four Republicans. His $197,409 total was more than Gilchrest, Bartlett and Morella combined.
Arscott said besides being a good fund raiser, Ehrlich may be establishing himself for a run at a higher office — either for governor in 2002, when Gov. Parris Glendening’s term expires, or senator in 2004, when Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Baltimore, is up for re-election.
“He has a lot of options,” she said. “Raising money like that puts him in a good position.”
Arscott said that while Ehrlich’s Baltimore County district is relatively safe for him now, that could change after the Democrat-controlled Legislature redraws congressional districts following the 2000 census. That could be driving him to consider other offices or to raise a lot money toward a tougher re- election bid in the future, she said.
“His district is sort of hanging in the balance,” Arscott said. “And Democrats will control re-districting.”
But Coker said Ehrlich’s receipts mainly reflect his popularity, and a run for governor is not likely at this point.
“It’s been a rumor but that seems less likely as time goes on,” he said. “He’s out there raising money because he’s a popular incumbent.”
An Ehrlich spokesman said while the congressman is exploring a run for statewide office, the money is not being saved for any particular race at this time.
“He’s moving up in the House leadership,” said Steve Kreseski, the spokesman. “A lot of the money he raises goes to help his [GOP] colleagues.”