COLLEGE PARK – Eighth District Republican nominee Chuck Floyd has raised more money than any other House challenger in Maryland.
The former State Department official and retired Army officer has raised $253,630 since November 2003, according to the latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, with the bulk of it coming in $177,000 in loans.
But he’s running against Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a first-term Democrat who had raised far more — almost $1.4 million — and who had $698,138 on hand as of June 30, the date of the last filing with the FEC.
That gives Van Hollen more than 20 times the $34,079 Floyd had on hand.
Floyd’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Van Hollen’s campaign manager, Chuck Westover, said that despite the huge lead in funds, the campaign will not rest easy.
“I would say the tension of this race is not quite where it was last race,” Westover said. “We’ve been knocking on doors since June. There’s a lot of areas in this district that are going to be first-time (voting in the 8th District). One of the things we want to do is shore up that situation.”
In 2002, Van Hollen won 51.7 percent of the vote to unseat eight-term Republican Rep. Constance Morella, who got 47.5 percent.
While Floyd’s campaign spending has increased substantially in recent months it has not matched Van Hollen’s. Floyd saw his spending go from $46,784 in the first quarter of the year $67,197 in the second. The incumbent spent $82,309 and $86,785, respectively, in the same two periods.
The spending increase shows that Floyd is “a serious candidate, not a complete pushover or a joke,” said Jim Gimpel, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland.
But that does not translate into a good shot at winning, especially in a district regarded as safe for Democrats after the latest round of redistricting after the 2000 Census.
In that redistricting, some of the more Republican-leaning rural areas of Montgomery County were removed from the district and a more Democratic section of Prince George’s County was added. Pollster Larry Harris said there are not enough independent voters in the county to help tilt the race in Floyd’s favor.
Independent polls on the race are scarce. Harris said that is because Van Hollen is seen as a “shoo-in” for a variety of reasons.
“He’s got a great grass-roots organization. He has established a reputation for constituent service. He has not made any mistakes,” said Harris, a partner with Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Inc., an independent firm.
He added that Floyd has not met many “critical success factors of a campaign.” Among them are significant funding, media exposure, support from the national and state party and a previously held elected office.
Van Hollen has all these, Harris said.
“He’d have to pull a Jack Ryan or a (James) McGreevey” to lose, Harris said, referring to politicians in Illinois and New Jersey who were tainted by sex scandals.
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