COLLEGE PARK – Kenneth Bosley won the last two Democratic primaries for Maryland’s 2nd District without raising any funds and he said he intended on sticking to the same strategy in this year’s race.
But this year is different in the 2nd District and some experts doubt that Bosley can win in the suddenly competitive race without raising any money.
“If a (candidate) hasn’t raised any money he is obviously not going to win,” said Candace Nelson, an American University government professor and co- author of the 1990 book, “The Money Chase: Congressional Campaign Finance Reform.”
The three leaders in the race have raised more than $1.1 million between them, according to the latest filings with the Federal Election Commission.
In the Democratic primary, Bosley faces Baltimore County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger, who has raised $467,673, and businessman Oz Bengur, who reported raising $461,038, more than $300,000 of it from his own pockets, campaign spokesman David Brown said.
Former congresswoman Helen Bentley, the Republican front-runner in the race, had raised $188,895 as of June 30, according to the FEC.
But while Bengur and Ruppersberger fight through the primary, Bentley has little challenge in her own party and her name recognition from years of being in Congress means she does not have to raise a lot of money, said Michael Kosnas, managing director of her campaign.
The 2nd District came open this year when Rep. Robert Ehrlich, R-Timonium, decided to run for governor. The district, which has long voted Republican, also became decidedly more Democratic in redistricting this year.
Ruppersberger, Bentley and Bengur all take issue with Bosley’s position that a campaign can proceed without money.
“You have to have resources to get the message out . . . so that people know you and know your issues,” said Shannon White, finance director for the Ruppersberger campaign.
While Ruppersberger and Bentley have raised one-fourth to one-third of their money, respectively, from interest groups, Bengur’s campaign boasts that most of its money comes from individual voters or the candidate’s own pockets. Bengur received one $1,000 donation from a political action committee.
Brown said Bengur “is unbought and unbossed. He does not want to be controlled by special interests or political action committees and rather would like to serve the people’s interest.”
Bosley went even further, saying campaign contributions are synonymous with bribery and they distract from the issues.
Bentley campaign officials scoffed at that suggestion. A candidate can hardly be bought when $5,000 is the maximum contribution allowed per election and a congressional race now costs $1 million or more to run, Kosnas said.
Further, political action committees contribute to candidates whose “values reflect their values,” Kosnas said. White agreed, noting that political action committees are more intertwined with the issues and are a good way to build relationships to address those issues.
But Bosley maintained that his opponents have focused more on raising money instead of focusing on the issues. Bosley prevailed over all Democratic candidates in 1998 and 2000 by 11 or more percentage points, and he attributed his victories then to the same “hard work” he says he is employing this year.
He lost both races in the general elections to Ehrlich.