Top earners sport support in District 16 races
Candidates, pundits look at cash
They say money makes the man, but does it make an assemblyman or woman?
Some vying for a spot on the District 16 Delegation are hoping it does.
The first set of campaign finance reports for state candidates were released Aug. 18, and political observers say the data shows a distinct difference between the support base of the 16 candidates looking to be one of three delegates to represent the district that serves Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Potomac in Annapolis.
Voters are not polled for such elections so campaign contributions are one of the few barometers for a candidate's popularity, said Todd Eberly, director of the Center for the Study of Democracy at St. Mary's College of Maryland.
"It does largely argue that you are in a stronger position if you can raise more money," he said. "People aren't going to write a check to a candidate they don't support."
If this rings true, then the incumbents in the race have outstretched many of their opponents by significant margins.
Del. C. William Frick, Sen. Brian Frosh, and Del. Susan C. Lee who are running on a District 16 team slate have the largest in the bank; something Frosh said is useful but won't guarantee victory.
"Dollars are a secondary consideration, you have to have a message that people can believe in to get elected," the 15-year senator said. "...Spending $1 million doesn't necessarily mean you'll win anything."
Frosh has out-earned not just his Republican opponent, Jerry Cave, but most of his fellow senators in the Free State. Maryland senators average just more than $180,500 in contributions so far this year while Frosh reported $276,293.61.
Non-incumbent candidates for delegate raised an average of $22,286.95 this year.
Cave, the only senatorial challenger in the district, has also out-earned his peers, collecting $43,665 compared to the $30,405.16 average for non-incumbent senatorial candidates.
In the Democratic primary race for delegate, Kyle Lierman of Bethesda son of Terry Lierman, chief of staff for U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Dist. 5) of Mechanicsville is the only non-incumbent to break $100,000 in contributions.
Contributions are limited to $4,000 from individuals and businesses.
He said the fact that nearly all of it $93,971.56 comes from 356 individuals as opposed to business entities or political groups shows that he's got the strongest support.
"I think the fact that I haven't had to donate any of my own money to my own campaign means that I'm the most compelling candidate in Annapolis," he said.
Board of Elections records show the largest portion of Lierman's spending, $33,116.87, the highest in the delegate race, has been focused on printing costs and salaries, accounting for almost 60 percent of the total.
Money is more important to challengers, said Curtis Gans, the director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate at American University in Washington, D.C. Anyone hoping to topple Frick, Lee, or Frosh will likely need to out-earn and out-spend them, he said.
"The value of an office is that it buys name recognition and record," Gans said. "That has a dollar value."
Craig Herskowitz has reported collecting and spending less than $1,000 requiring him not to detail his campaign finances.
He said he is a viable candidate despite having the least available funds in the democratic primary.
"I think I have an effective message that people can relate to," he said. "I've put some ads on Facebook and it's been generating a lot of buzz."
Eberly said those following the election should not be fooled by campaign funds, as local elections are notoriously hard to predict.
"Nobody can know what will happen in a primary," he said. "Anything could happen."