WASHINGTON – Maryland’s congressional incumbents have raised vastly more money than their opponents and have more than twice as much cash on hand heading into the final days of the campaign.
The incumbents up for re-election – all eight House members and Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Baltimore — have raised more than $6 million since Jan. 1, 1999, to their opponents’ $1.4 million, almost all of which was raised by one challenger in the 8th District.
The incumbents still had a total of $5 million on hand as of Sept. 30, more than 12 times the challengers’ $402,154, according to Federal Election Commission reports released this week. Four out of the 10 challengers did not file with the FEC, apparently because they did not raise the $5,000 that triggers the filing requirement.
Democrat Terry Lierman has raised more than $1 million in his quest to unseat Rep. Constance Morella, R-Bethesda, in the 8th District, the only challenger to raise more than the incumbent he is facing. But Morella has more than $800,000 on hand to his $225,000 in what is still seen as a tough fight for Lierman.
The lack of money complicates what is already an uphill battle for most challengers – they need money to win, but raising money takes away precious time from the campaign trail.
“It means that you have to work 26 hours a day,” said Denise Chairs, campaign manager for GOP Senate nominee Paul Rappaport. “You have to spend your time on campaign stops and. . .dialing for dollars.”
Those campaign stops are vital to challengers, for whom face-to-face contact may be the only way to reach voters.
“I wish I had more money to get out more advertising,” said Delegate K. Bennett Bozman, D-Worcester, who is running against Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R- Kennedyville, in the 1st District. “It would make it a lot easier to get my message out.”
Bozman cannot afford time on the airwaves to combat Gilchrest’s radio ads, and said his remaining $26,958 will be spent on the more affordable direct mail.
Donald DeArmon, a Democratic challenger in the 6th District, will also use a large portion of his remaining money on direct mail. DeArmon has just over $100,000 left for his campaign against Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick.
A spokeswoman said DeArmon is very pleased at how much money he has been able to raise. But she said that he has put considerable effort into fund raising and he still does not have “enough money to blanket the airwaves” like his opponent.
“A challenger always has to spend a lot of time in a campaign fund raising, because you have to convince people you have a chance,” said the spokeswoman, Sue Tuckwell.
The catch-22 of fund raising perpetuates an unbreakable cycle of incumbency, said Kathleen Skullney, the executive director of Maryland Common Cause.
“Even in the press, the challengers are treated almost as a joke because they can’t raise money,” said Skullney.
Incumbents “get the money and huge contributions from special interests because they expect you to hold your office and you hold the office because you can get the money,” she said. “It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Skullney said that leads to “an inaccessible electoral process.”
Allan Lichtman, an American University political scientist, said that underfunded challengers can only break that pattern under unusual circumstances.
“The skew in fund raising makes it difficult if not impossible for challengers,” he said. “For them to win two things have to happen. No. 1, there is some burning issue and No. 2, strong grass-roots organization.”
That’s just what Democrat Kenneth Bosley hopes he has in his 2nd District bid to unseat Rep. Robert Ehrlich, R-Timonium.
“Money talks until the issues really hit home,” Bosley said.