COLLEGE PARK – Rep. Benjamin Cardin is prepared to spend $1 million in his 3rd District re-election bid as he tries to fend off a “viable” challenger while continuing to introduce himself to new voters, campaign staffers said.
Political observers doubt that Cardin will need to spend that much to win: The nine-term incumbent Democrat’s re-election is a sure thing, they say. But his latest filings with the Federal Election Commission show that Cardin is well ahead of his Republican challenger, Anne Arundel Circuit Clerk Robert Duckworth.
The FEC said that as of June 30 Cardin’s campaign had raised slightly more than $675,017 since the beginning of 2003, about six times more than Duckworth’s $110,779.
Cardin’s campaign director, Jamie Fontaine, said the extra money is needed to continue to introduce Cardin to voters he gained in the 2002 redistricting, and to run against Duckworth. She said that Duckworth, circuit clerk since 1994, represents a greater challenge than Cardin has faced in recent elections.
“We’re excited to have an opponent who can debate us on the issues,” she said.
“I can do better than those who have run before me,” said Duckworth, who called the election “very winnable.”
Duckworth lost bids for Congress in 1990 and 1992, first against Democrat Thomas McMillen and then against fellow Republican Wayne Gilchrest. He won the Republican primary earlier this year after being recruited by the state GOP as the best candidate to take on Cardin.
Despite Duckworth’s optimism, political columnist Blair Lee said he faces a tough uphill battle.
“Experience shows us that congressional incumbents rarely lose,” he said.
Lee went on to say that Cardin would prove particularly difficult to beat because he “has a stellar record” and “is revered on both sides of the aisle for his intellect” and legislative ability.
Cardin’s fund-raising ability gives him a strong advantage as well.
As of July 1, Cardin had $527,151 hand, and Duckworth had about $42,174.
While Duckworth had raised the second-most money of any of the Maryland congressional challengers, most of his available money, $36,000, came in the form of a loan the candidate made to the campaign during the last quarter.
“I show my commitment by what I put in,” Duckworth said.
He is confident that he will raise more money before the election and noted that Gov. Robert Ehrlich has endorsed him and has sent a letter to Republicans in the district asking them to support his campaign. He is focusing on small donors and has two fund-raising events planned in the next two months.
Fontaine said Cardin’s campaign is using small community fund-raisers to bring in more money.
If Cardin does succeed in raising $1 million, it will be the most he has raised for a campaign since he first won office in 1986. He typically has raised between $500,000 and $700,000, according to FEC figures compiled by Political Money Line, a political watchdog group.
With nearly $400,000 to go, his campaign will have to raise money faster than it has before. The most it has raised in any quarter so far this cycle is about $187,000, and it raised only about $120,000 in the last quarter of the 2002 election cycle. The campaign raised $130,005 in the last filing period, from April 1 to June 30.
-30- CNS 08-20-04