COLLEGE PARK – First-term Rep. Donna Edwards has less than $87,000 cash on hand for a 2010 re-election bid, surprising political observers who called it an unusually low number for a freshmen member of Congress.
“She’s probably the most vulnerable incumbent in the state,” said Wayne Clarke, a lobbyist and political consultant in Prince George’s County. “The question is whether or not there is someone who is going to step up to the plate (to challenge her).”
According to the latest reports with the Federal Election Commission, Edwards, D-Fort Washington, had raised $173,041 this year and still had $86,870 cash on hand as of June 30.
That trailed well behind other incumbents in the state. Longtime Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, had $316,546 in the bank on June 30 while the only other freshman, Rep. Frank Kratovil, D-Stevensville, reported $503,818 on hand.
“I suspect Congresswoman Edwards’ fundraising numbers will pick up in the next year,” said Thomas Schaller, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, “but yes, she needs to get moving.”
Edwards’ predecessor, Rep. Al Wynn, D-Mitchellville, had $399,524 cash on hand at the same point in 2007, according to the FEC. Edwards unseated the 15-year incumbent in the 2008 primary election, and took office in June after he resigned. In that race, she raised more than $1.4 million.
Jack Fruchtman, a political science professor at Towson University, said Edwards is popular in her district but the need for money in congressional races “is much greater than it was 40 years ago … (so it is) right to wonder about” Edwards’ fundraising.
But supporter Aimee Olivo, co-chair of the grassroots organization Progressive Cheverly in Edwards’ district, said that the low numbers did not worry her.
“She’s really been spending her time off Capitol Hill doing town hall meetings, meeting with community groups,” Olivo said.
“I certainly feel like that is a better use of her time than what Al Wynn was doing at the same time,” she said in reference to Wynn’s fundraising.
Edwards is regarded as a left-leaning Democrat and is supported by many progressive groups, including Progressive Cheverly and Emily’s List, an organization that supports pro-choice Democratic women running for office.
Jonathan Parker, the political director for Emily’s List, said the group is very pleased with Edwards’ performance in her first term, and is confident she would defeat any challengers.
“As a freshman, she’s making a difference and being a champion for people in the district,” he said. “Money is not the be-all and end-all — the number will go up.”
“I think that she raised a heck of a lot of money (in 2008) because Albert was there for a long time and created a lot of enemies,” he said. What Edwards needs to do now is to make her own friends, he said.
“I don’t think that she has necessarily done that yet, in my opinion,” Clarke said. “I don’t know how much outreach she has done, I just haven’t seen it.”
The only challenger so far is George McDermott, a judicial reform activist, who filed his 4th District candidacy with the Maryland State Board of Elections on Aug. 18. This is the fourth try for McDermott, a Democrat, who ran in 2004, 2006 and 2008, winning just 3.9 percent and 0.8 percent of the primary vote in the last two elections.
While no serious Democratic challengers have yet emerged, Mark Uncapher, chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee, said that Edwards may have alienated moderate and conservative Democrats in her district with her progressive stance on issues like health care.
“There are many moderate Democrats in Maryland,” Uncapher said. “Edwards has staked out a very hard-left position. I think there’s a prospect from people who are not as hard left.”