By Aleksandra Robinson
COLLEGE PARK – Mike Hargadon knows a lot of people and he’s asking every one of them to help him in his bid to unseat seven-term incumbent Rep. Elijah Cummings in the 7th District.
And he will need all of them to help him achieve his goal.
Hargadon, a first-time Republican candidate, is running in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans 4-to-1, against a congressman whose campaign dollars outnumber Hargadon’s 80-to-1.
As of June 30, Hargadon’s campaign had $8,459 in donations, according to the Federal Election Commission. Cummings’ campaign had raised $682,593.
Hargadon, a self-described “Ron Paul Republican,” said his chances of winning the November election will be better if he can raise $40,000. He wants to advertise on the radio because he said he does not think people really watch television anymore.
“Radio is where I think we’re going to make some real headway,” he said.
Hargadon has already made lawn signs, buttons and bumper stickers for supporters to display. He campaigned at the Howard County Fair and has other appearances planned.
“Dr. Mike,” as the dentist-turned-candidate is known by supporters, has made T-shirts with “I LIKE MIKE” printed on the front. He has sent letters to everyone he knows and his campaign workers have started compiling a database of supporters, some of whom are friends from his 25-year career in dentistry, some from groups he was once a member of and some from the fact that he comes from a family of 10.
It is unusual for a Republican to have such an organized campaign in such a heavily Democratic district, said Justin Ready, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party. The district encompasses parts of Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County.
“It’s not easy to find someone credible . . . someone like Mike Hargadon who’s active in the community, who has something to offer,” Ready said. “It’s tough to find someone who’s a real quality candidate.”
That is not to say that the campaign is attracting big-campaign dollars: The majority of Hargadon’s money has come in small amounts made by individual donors.
The majority of Cummings’ money, according to FEC reports, comes from political action committees, companies or groups of people who give to a campaign. Hargadon has said he will not take PAC money.
“I don’t want to be beholden to anybody but the people in the state,” he said. “I don’t want anybody holding strings on me.”
Mike Christianson, counsel for Cummings, said that since the congressman has to run every two years, he needs to stockpile money in case there is a particularly difficult opposing candidate one year.
While Hargadon thinks television ads are ineffective, Cummings likes to run them during difficult campaigns, Christianson said.
“It’s unlikely that the congressman will spend money on television on this campaign unless he’s attacked in the media,” Christianson said.
When Cummings does spend campaign money, “it’s spent in communication with the public,” Christianson said.
Ready, the state Republican Party official, said it can be difficult for Republican candidates to raise money in districts like the 7th where there is a strong incumbent Democrat.
“It’s impressive that (Hargadon has) been able to raise what he’s been able to raise,” Ready said. “You get told ‘no’ a lot because people don’t want to go against the incumbent.”
Hargadon said he’s optimistic about his chances at winning the seat.
“We’re doing the best we can,” he said. “Elijah Cummings was unopposed last time and a lot of people say he doesn’t represent them.”