WASHINGTON – Dr. Jim Corwin knows by now that the Democratic Party isn’t going to pony up any money for his congressional campaign.
“Not that I haven’t tried,” said Corwin, the Democratic candidate for Maryland’s 1st Congressional District. “But we can win without it. The grass roots — that’s where the energy is.”
After slogging through the primaries, underdog candidates like Corwin — there are six running either against popular incumbents or in districts that heavily favor the opposing party this year — had hoped for cash rewards from their state and national parties that haven’t come.
Corwin, of Severna Park, is running against eight-term Republican Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, who was re-elected in 2004 with three times as many votes as his Democratic challenger and cruised through the September primary unopposed.
With about $12,000 on hand, according finance reports filed in late August, compared with Gilchrest’s $288,000, Corwin could use the cash.
The major parties’ funding policies are not new. For limited resources to achieve maximum effect, some candidates have to be cut out of the coffers, party officials say.
Contentious races for governor and U.S. Senate make it necessary to prioritize, said Maryland Republican Party spokeswoman Audra Miller.
But some candidates said they felt snubbed.
“It was a little disturbing how unsupportive they are,” said Republican Michael Moshe Starkman, who is looking at a tough haul in the 4th District against Rep. Albert R. Wynn, although Wynn eked out a primary victory over neophyte candidate Donna Edwards. “I would imagine there should be some sort of assistance. The fact that they didn’t give me $5 was a little surprising.”
While candidates running uphill campaigns often construe the lack of funding as their party separating the weak from the strong, Miller said that interpretation doesn’t take into account the state parties’ financial limitations.
“You have to look at it from a macro level,” Miller said. “We could have put a candidate in place in every district in the state, but from a state party perspective, we’ve made it clear that our efforts are fully into the re-election of Gov. Robert Ehrlich, the election of Lt. Gov. Michael Steele to the U.S. Senate and putting 14 new House members and five new Senate members in the General Assembly.”
Terry Lierman, chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party, said it falls on the national committees to connect candidates to money, and the candidates themselves to secure individual contributions. The Maryland Democratic Party does not directly contribute to any of the federal candidates’ campaigns, he said.
“There’s not enough money in the state of Maryland or in the country for each party to give money to individual candidates,” Lierman said. “How would you possibly figure out who gets what?”
Both state parties offer a menu of campaign services, aside from cash, including access to voter rolls, voter files and maps of each precinct that contain demographic information and indicate party affiliation called “walk lists.”
Lierman said it cost about $300,000 for the Maryland Democratic Party to collect and compile the all the information. It’s offered to candidates for a sliding fee starting at $50 and based on the office sought. The Maryland Republican Party hands over the information for free.
“Everyone wants support from their party,” Lierman said. “And they get everything but money.”
Candidate names are advertised in the state party mass e-mails and phone campaigns. And party volunteers plunk the candidates’ campaign literature, magnets and buttons down on tables at local, state, and national political events.
“Pretty well everything outside of money directly to the candidate we are providing in resources and volunteers and information,” Miller said.
Democrat Andrew Duck, who is facing seven-term Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett in the 6th Congressional District, has raised about $123,000 — the most among the six congressional candidates running on long odds — none of which came from the state party. Bartlett, by comparison, has raised about $247,000.
While the services offered by the Maryland Democratic Party have been invaluable, said Matt Hudson, Duck’s campaign field director, a little money would have been nice, too.
“The amount is not what we would’ve hoped for,” Hudson said. “But the greatest gift (the state party) can give is votes, and that’s what they’re doing.”
John White, a Republican, is running an uphill race against Democrat John Sarbanes for the open 3rd District seat, occupied by Rep. Ben Cardin, who left to pursue a U.S. Senate seat this year. White’s campaign is almost entirely self-funded — he’s contributed about $200,000 — but he’s still holding out hope for some outside money.
“I would be surprised if I did not receive any assistance,” White said. “I hope that any support that they normally give will be on its way soon.”
White’s race, because it’s open, might prove to be the exception to the no-funding trend. Of course, it might not.
“These are tough races,” Miller said. “To be quite honest, running congressional races requires the candidates to garner significant funding, significant support, and the party provides the mechanisms to accomplish that.”