WASHINGTON – Fueled by a growing population and the fund-raising prowess of Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, Southern Maryland now approaches the traditional stronghold of Baltimore-Washington for individual campaign contributions to Maryland congressmen.
During 1999, residents of Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s counties contributed $57,150 to incumbent Maryland House members, trailing only Baltimore City residents, who gave $88,575, and Montgomery County residents, who contributed $69,025.
The third-place finish for the three counties came despite the fact that their combined population of 283,452 is dwarfed by Montgomery’s 852,174 residents and Baltimore City’s estimated population of 632,681 last year.
But Montgomery still reigns supreme in the amount of contributions to both state and federal candidates. During 1997-1998, residents of one Potomac ZIP code, 20854, contributed $1.3 million alone, according to FECInfo, a nonpartisan Internet site that tracks federal political contributions.
While Southern Maryland’s figures are surprising, it’s not all that unusual given that the area is represented by Hoyer, who has a solid fund- raising reputation, said Brad Coker, director of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research.
“[Steny] represents that area and he’s been working the circuit,” Coker said. “He plays the role well.”
Almost all of the money raised from the region went to Hoyer, except for a $500 contribution for Rep. Robert Ehrlich, R-Timonium.
A Hoyer spokeswoman said the 5th District congressman’s receipts are simply a reflection of his popularity.
“Each passing year his constituents see that he brings results and they return their thanks in donations,” to Hoyer, who has been in Congress since 1982, said Debra DeShong, the spokeswoman.
But Coker also attributed the contributions to the number of people who have moved into the area from Prince George’s County.
“Prince George’s County has been a strong fund-raising base for a long time, especially for Democrats” he said. “Usually when people move down there, they bring their political money with them.”
Carol Arscott, of the independent polling firm Gonzalez/Arscott Research, said while Southern Maryland’s voting history has tended to be somewhat conservative, its makeup is moving more to the left, which can only benefit the self-described “tax-and-spend liberal” Hoyer. The region’s population grew by 24.1 percent in the 1990s.
“Southern Maryland is one of the fastest-growing regions in the state,” said Arscott. “It now has all kinds of people.”
Besides Southern Maryland, Democrats have also long ruled Prince George’s County, where almost all of the $30,775 raised went to House Democrats. Ehrlich, who claimed a $500 donation from Prince George’s, was the only Republican to receive a contribution from the county.
While Democratic donations fell primarily within the Baltimore-Washington corridor, Republican money was more widely scattered. Virtually all the donations from Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore went to GOP members, mainly Reps. Roscoe Bartlett of Frederick and Wayne Gilchrest of Kennedyville, who represent those areas.
Coker said the two parties’ regional strengths only reflect the electorate that lives there.
“The GOP is stronger in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore because that’s where Republicans live,” he said. “Likewise, the Democrats do well in the corridor, but that area can be diverse as well.”
Montgomery County showed such diversity. While the area is represented by Republican Rep. Connie Morella of Bethesda, who received $21,550 in individual donations from the county, Hoyer pulled in $22,850 on her turf. Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo, whose district includes part of eastern Montgomery County, was third at $13,825.
Arscott said it is not surprising that the Democrats and Republicans alike raised large amounts in Montgomery County.
“Simply put, it’s where the money is,” she said. “Democrats know that and so do Republicans.”
Besides his re-election this year, Hoyer is also raising cash for a possible run for majority whip, should the Democrats regain control of the House in November. Charged with organizing party members and securing their votes on key issues, the majority whip is the third-most powerful position in the House leadership.
A spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors campaign contributions, said the prospect of obtaining such a leadership position could have helped Hoyer bring in donations both large and small.
“To the average donor in his district, it may just be a matter of pride,” said Larry Makinson, the spokesman. “But for a strategic donor, there’s no question that they recognize it’s a powerful post.”