COLLEGE PARK – Democratic hopeful Harry Sampson figures it will take $300,000 to $500,000 to challenge 1st District Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, next year.
He’s got a long way to go.
Sampson had raised just over $4,400 and had $90.46 cash on hand as of June 30, according to his latest filing with the Federal Election Commission. Gilchrest reported to the FEC that he had raised more than $70,000 in the first half of this year, and had $180,000 in the bank.
One-quarter of the way through the 2006 election cycle, that puts Gilchrest on pace to match the $527,000 he raised for his 2004 election, when he faced a spirited challenge from state Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Dorchester.
Cathy Bassett, a spokeswoman for Gilchrest’s campaign, said it is too early in the election cycle for the eight-term incumbent to know how much money he needs to raise.
“That’s going to depend on whether we have a primary challenger,” she said.
Before Colburn, Gilchrest faced an expensive challenge from David Fischer in the 2002 GOP primary. But he won both races with no less than 60 percent of the vote, and went on to win the general election each year with no less than 76 percent of the total.
Audra Miller, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Republican Party, said she does not expect anybody to challenge Gilchrest in the 2006 primary. She attributes his long-term success in the 1st District partly to her sense that “people know what they get” with Gilchrest.
Josh White, the executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, takes a different view. He said the 1st District is “trending” Democratic as the population in the area climbs, and Gilchrest has started raising more money to defend against Democratic challengers.
“He’s feeling the pressure from the growth of the Democratic Party,” White said. “He’s probably being more diligent.”
But the numbers suggest otherwise. Gilchrest’s margins of victory in the general elections in 2002 and 2004 were wider than those in any of the previous three elections.
Kostas Alexakis, the Democrat who lost to Gilchrest in 2004, has officially terminated his campaign with the FEC and could not be reached to comment on the 2006 race. But the apparently long odds have not deterred Sampson or James Corwin, the two Democrats who have already filed to run against Gilchrest.
Corwin of Severna Park is the medical director at Baltimore Medical System at Annapolis Road. He filed his candidacy with the state, but had not filed a campaign report with the FEC as of June 30 and did not return calls seeking comment on the race.
Sampson, a utility and gas line inspector for Public Service Electric and Gas Co., a power company based in New Jersey, said he knows he needs to raise money. But he thinks he can challenge Gilchrest over his congressional voting record and can win — despite his acknowledgement that Gilchrest has found a “niche” for himself in the sprawling 1st District.
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