WASHINGTON – Besides raising money for their own campaigns, Maryland’s two Republican gubernatorial candidates say they are also raising foot soldiers who can switch allegiance between candidates should one of the two drop out.
With Rep. Robert Ehrlich, R-Timonium, not quite in the race and Prince George’s County Council member Audrey Scott not quite out, campaign officials said they have an understanding that donors who pledge money now to one camp can shift it to the other, depending on who the Republican candidate is.
The goal is to present a unified GOP front to likely Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
“There are thousands of people in Maryland that are committed to defeating the Glendening-Townsend administration and there are those that are willing to give money to that cause, regardless of who’s leading it,” said Paul Schurick, Ehrlich’s campaign manager.
Despite pressure from the party to jump in, Ehrlich has not formally entered the governor’s race, telling his finance committee recently that it needed to raise $2 million by the end of the year before he would decide.
Scott is not willing to wait. But she is ready to drop out of the race if Ehrlich decides to enter, said Lawrence Scott, her son and campaign adviser.
“If for some reason (Ehrlich) doesn’t run, it would be too difficult to start a campaign in January,” Lawrence Scott said. “We want to make sure that we’ve got a candidate that’s going to be viable and going to be able to run against Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.”
The Republicans’ strategy of collective campaigning keeps from draining the pool of potential donors and avoids problems down the road with campaign finance laws that would limit the amount one campaign could shift to another.
The strategy is “not common, but it’s not unusual,” said Candice Nelson, an American University associate professor of government. Right now, the candidates are focusing on garnering as much financial support as they can, in whatever way they need to do it, she said.
“The ultimate goal is to have a well-funded candidate in the general election,” she said.
Nelson said it makes “some strategic sense” for the two Republicans to be fund-raising like this because of the uncertainty of Ehrlich’s candidacy and the disadvantage that deals to Scott’s campaign.
“It happens probably most often when there’s a perceived candidate who’s stronger but who’s not sure if they are going to run,” she said.
Lawrence Scott said his mother enjoys support from most of Ehrlich’s backers. But they would surely switch to Ehrlich’s side if he entered the race, at which point Scott would urge her followers to support Ehrlich.
“Our strategy all along has been to incorporate Bobby’s candidacy,” Lawrence Scott said. “Anything we can do to help Bobby get elected we will do, including giving him money.”
He said money promised to the Scott campaign would go to Ehrlich should he enter the race. Schurick said many of those who are funding Ehrlich’s campaign would do the same for Scott.
Whatever Ehrlich decides to do, Scott said his mother is gearing up for the fight.
“We’re going to be ready to go,” he said.
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