WASHINGTON – Maryland congressional candidates this year spent an “insane” $15.8 million on House races, almost three-quarters of it in the hotly contested 8th and 2nd District contests, according to Federal Election Committee reports filed this week.
The 2000 elections for House seats, by contrast, cost about $9 million.
“It was a tight election and it was a battleground for both parties, and that’s what drove the fund raising up to the levels it did,” said Afshin Mohamadi, a spokesman for Democrat Chris Van Hollen’s 8th District campaign.
Van Hollen spent $2.8 million to beat incumbent Rep. Connie Morella, R- Bethesda, in the most expensive House race in Maryland history.
Morella spent $2.96 million, the same amount spent by all the candidates in the 2nd District, the state’s second-most expensive House race.
There, winner Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat, spent $1.16 million to fend off a $758,329 primary challenge from Oz Bengur and a $1 million bid for the open seat by Republican Helen Delich Bentley.
Primary challengers drove up the costs in the 2nd, 8th and 1st district races, said WBAL political analyst Frank A. DeFilippo.
In the 1st District, David Fischer spent $564,900 in the Republican primary in a failed attempt to unseat Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville. Gilchrest spent $430,481 — “a few more bucks than he normally would,” according to DeFilippo — on the primary and general elections.
In the 8th District, Democratic challengers Mark Shriver spent $2.1 million and Ira Shapiro spent nearly $800,000 in their losses to Van Hollen, helping to make the seat one of the most expensive in the country.
“(Van Hollen’s) goal was never to out-raise the opposition, but to have enough money to get the message out,” Mohamadi said.
Analysts said the high cost of Maryland campaigns was not surprising, but has followed a trend of more expensive media appearances and more sophisticated election techniques.
“We’re into an era where everybody’s got to have a consultant and a pollster,” DeFilippo said. “It’s obscene . . . but it’s the cost of campaigning,”
DeFilippo said spending levels for other House races were normal, but that 3rd District Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Baltimore, had to raise more than he did last election — $933,398 next to $564,687 in 2000 — because redistricting last year gave him a district where 40 percent of his constituents are new.
“The big difference here is TV,” said Cardin spokeswoman Susan Sullam. “He did not do TV ads in 2000 and he did this year to introduce him to the new areas of the district.”
Incumbents in the state’s four other House districts won re-election easily, but many still spent heavily: 4th District Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo, spent $682,245; 5th District Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, spent $818,898; 6th District Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, spent $197,521; and 7th District Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, spent $398,593.
Winners spent $7.5 million in this election, according to the FEC, less than the $8.3 million that losers spent.
“I don’t know where it’s going to go from here,” DeFilippo said. “Will (the cost of one race) be $15 million the next time? I don’t know.”