WASHINGTON – The attorney who gave Rep. Wayne Gilchrest a run for his money in last year’s GOP primary has closed his campaign account, rejecting a 2004 bid and ending a race that left him almost $300,000 in debt.
David Fischer, who spent more than $500,000 to win 36 percent of the vote in the 1st District primary, said he never intended to run again in 2004. But his campaign only filed a termination notice with the Federal Election Commission last week.
“I would have done it five days after the campaign ended, but it just took a while to get all our records together,” Fischer said.
The move leaves the GOP primary field to Gilchrest and state Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Dorchester — who said he also expects to raise as much as $500,000 for a primary run against Gilchrest.
When told that Fischer had closed his campaign, a spokeswoman for Gilchrest responded with a cheery, “Oh, really?” But spokeswoman Cathy Bassett declined to give further comment.
Gilchrest is recovering at home from minor surgery and was not available for comment. He is expected to be back in the office in about three weeks.
But the seven-term Republican has not been idle since the last election, in which he spent more than $440,000 to fend off Fischer and Democratic nominee Ann Tamlyn.
After finishing the 2002 election with just over $2,500 in the bank, Gilchrest’s latest filing with the FEC showed that he raised $135,159 between Jan. 1 and June 30 of this year, and had $104,581 in the bank.
Colburn reported raising $51,559 during the same period and having $19,983 on hand as of June 30. He said he is not concerned about Gilchrest’s fund-raising lead, with the primary election still more than six months away.
“We’re probably going to have to raise about $500,000. We’re going to do that and we have a plan to do that,” Colburn said. “But we’re going to beat Wayne on the issues.”
Gilchrest’s FEC filings also show that, despite a 1993 campaign pledge to return all political action committee donations, he has kept some PAC money, including $250 last September from the Club for Growth. The conservative PAC backed Fischer, before sending a donation to Gilchrest for the general election.
“Well, I guess he’s forgotten to send back the check,” said David Keating, executive director of the Club for Growth.
Despite Gilchrest’s no-PAC pledge, FEC records show that he has kept more than $10,000 from such interest groups since the 1994 election. The only time he did not keep any PAC money was in the 1996 election, the records show.
In May, Gilchrest received $1,000 from the real estate PAC of the Cendant Corp., and the Lockheed Martin Employees Political Action Committee also gave $1,500 in the spring. Neither contribution had been returned by the time of Gilchrest’s last campaign filing in July.
But Don Simon, general counsel for the nonpartisan Common Cause, said the $10,180 in PAC funds that Gilchrest has kept over the past decade is a very small amount, considering that some industries alone are “lined up to give each member $10,000.”
House candidates received $282 million in PAC contributions during the last election cycle, an average of well over a half-million per congressional race, according to an FEC study.
Fischer said he has no problems with PACs, and accepted thousands of dollars from them in the 2002 race.
“I believe in unlimited donations with disclosure. As long as the money is disclosed where it is coming from, I don’t have a problem with taking PAC money,” Fischer said.
His campaign debt of $288,601 comes almost exclusively from money he put up himself for the race, and which he will lose by closing the campaign.
“If I wanted to get it (the money) back, I’d have to raise money to pay off the debt. But no, I’m just going to absorb the cost myself,” Fischer said.