WASHINGTON – Some disheartened Republicans in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District plan to vote Democratic come November, but GOP state Sen. Andy Harris is confident his unrivaled fundraising translates into unrivaled support.
Harris bounced incumbent Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, during the primary and faces the Democratic nominee Frank Kratovil, the Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney, in the November showdown for the traditionally conservative district. Upset Gilchrest supporters, including a top campaign aide, have lined up behind Kratovil. But, Harris answered with twice as much fundraising as his opponent for the latest March 31 reporting period.
“I think the fact that we out-raised Mr. Kratovil by two to one means our message of lower taxes, lower government spending and stimulating the economy is resonating with people,” Harris said.
Harris, a Johns Hopkins anesthesiologist, raised $380,000 since a few weeks before the Feb. 12 primary, according to the reports released April 15. Kratovil brought in about $195,000.
Kratovil has about $180,000 in the bank, compared to Harris’ $200,000.
Money in the bank, Kratovil said, is the key.
“As long as we’re within that reasonable range to compete, we’re going to have an opportunity to defeat him because it isn’t all about the money,” Kratovil said.
But, money raised and money spent can be crucial when competing for an open seat, said Michael Cain, the director of St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s Center for the Study of Democracy.
“How much money is spent in this race is going to have an influence on the outcome because both candidates need to have their name out there and get a lot of exposure,” Cain said. “Kratovil and Harris are not necessarily household names in the district the way Gilchrest is.”
Overall, Harris has raised about $1.5 million to Kratovil’s $430,000 this election cycle.
The total, Harris said, can’t be ignored.
“A stopped clock is right twice a day and at any given point in time might be at that moment the same, but I think the fundraising trend is very clear,” he said, referring to how much both candidates have on hand.
Kratovil needs to play catch up, Cain said.
“I think that Kratovil’s campaign needs to certainly get moving and start spending some money and raising money so that they can position themselves to close, I think, what is certainly a gap between them and Harris,” Cain said. “It’s clear the Democrats have an uphill battle in that district, but they still have a chance.”
Kratovil’s friendship with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, could prove crucial.
“That ensures that the Democratic national party is going to be interested in this race,” Cain said. “That’s good for Kratovil for certain.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, headed by Maryland’s Rep. Chris Van Hollen, is targeting the 1st District race and could provide key independent expenditures.
Hoyer and Van Hollen couldn’t be reached for comment late Friday.
And the assistance of Republicans could be equally influential. Lynn Caligiuri, a top campaign aide for Gilchrest, announced Thursday she would work on Kratovil’s staff. About 50 people attended a Republicans for Kratovil meeting last month.
Cross-party support, Cain said, is not uncommon after hard-fought primaries like this one.
“I don’t make anything of it other than what you see and that there are some supporters of Gilchrest who really are not happy that a more conservative candidate defeated them,” Cain said. “They know that had they been able to prevail in the primary they would have won the seat.”
Harris repeatedly lumped Gilchrest and another contender, state Sen. E.J. Pipkin, as “two liberal peas in a pod,” and accusations of dishonesty and negative campaigning flew from all sides.
The bitter aftertaste of the primary, Kratovil said, obviously played a role.
“Certainly, I would be naive if I didn’t recognize that certainly some of that is the nature of that primary and the attacks on Gilchrest,” Kratovil said. “But, I really think it’s deeper than that.”
Voters, Kratovil said, are attracted by his similarity to Gilchrest in that he’s a moderate and cares for the environment.
“I’m my own guy and I always have been,” Kratovil said. “I tend to think that oftentimes one of our big problems with politics is you have the extremes of the country controlling the agenda and too many people being unwilling to vote against their party’s majority platform when it’s appropriate.”
Kent County Commissioner Roy Crow, a Republican, has thrown his support behind Kratovil.
“Though I’m a Republican I not only vote, but support those I feel are the best candidates,” Crow said in a recent interview. “Frank is from the Eastern Shore, understands Eastern Shore philosophy. He’s very similar to Wayne.”
The Eastern Shore, Kratovil said, stands to lose its only representation in Congress.
“You feel like the viewpoint that you bring and represent is outnumbered,” Kratovil said. “I understand the view of wanting to make sure that the values of the Eastern Shore and really that district are represented in Maryland.”