Even dated campaign-cash data can show what it takes to win city elections
Published: July 6, 2011
In Boston, candidates for City Council have been filing monthly or bi-weekly campaign-finance reports since January, showing in great detail how much money they raised from whom and how it was spent. The data provide insight into the political game and can prompt civic discussion about the elections, the candidates, and their funders. But in Baltimore, voters will only have access to such details come mid-August.
Under Maryland’s campaign-finance laws, candidates do not report their fundraising and expenses between the 2010 end-of-year report, due in mid-January, and the first filing before the Sept. 13 primary, which is due on Aug. 16. That’s eight and half months of political transactions conducted outside of public view during a crucial period of fundraising in the races for mayor, City Council president, comptroller, and 14 Council districts.
The first pre-primary report unleashes an overwhelming torrent of campaign-finance information, followed by another flood on Sept. 2, when the second pre-primary report is due. This means the public has only a few weeks to digest how candidates raised and spent money before the primary is held—and, in a city where Democrats make up about 80 percent of the registered voters, the primary is all but certain to pick the city’s elected leaders for the next four years.
While campaign-finance reform in Maryland was a talking point this year, with the January release of a 122-page report by Attorney General Douglas Gansler’s Advisory Committee on Campaign Finance, none of its 25 recommendations addresses the timeliness of reporting.
Susan Wichmann, the executive director of Common Cause Maryland, a good-government nonprofit, says her group “certainly has advocated for more frequent and transparent reporting of political contributions.” She points out that a possible forum for exploring more frequent reporting—especially during election years—is Maryland’s new Commission to Study Campaign Finance Law, which was created this year by the General Assembly and is expected to issue its final recommendations at the end of 2012.
As things stand, though, the old campaign-finance data about Baltimore City’s electoral contenders still have something to offer. They can be used to tease out how much it may cost to win a given race, based on the numbers from prior elections. And, for the minority of candidates whose committees were formed prior to the beginning of this year—incumbents, for the most part—they can be used to determine their biggest early backers. What follows is a race-by-race analysis, based on available online data reported to the Maryland State Board of Elections. The candidates listed are Democrats who filed for office as of June 30, before the July 6 filing deadline, so more candidates may end up running—and some could drop out by the July 15 withdrawal deadline.
In 1999, then-City Councilmember Martin O’Malley won a 17-way Democratic primary for an open seat, spending a little more than $1 million, or about $16.60 per vote, in the year leading up to the vote. In his five-way race for re-election in 2003, O’Malley spent just under $1.8 million, about $30 per vote. And in 2007, Sheila Dixon won the eight-way primary, running as an incumbent appointed to serve out the unfinished term of Martin O’Malley, who won the Maryland governor’s race in 2006. During the year leading up to the primary, Dixon spent nearly $2 million campaigning, or about $36.50 per vote.
If the inflationary trend continues, this year’s winner in the mayor’s race can expect to spend more than $2 million and close to $40 per vote.
At the end of 2010, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was well on her way to reaching the $2 million mark, with a little more than $840,000 in the bank. Her top donors in 2010 were from Ohio: developers Jeffrey Woda and David Cooper of the Woda Group LLC, and their wives, who gave $4,000 each, for a total of $16,000. The New York political action fund of 1199 SEIU, a healthcare-workers union, ponied up $6,000.
The first runner-up in the mayoral contenders’ 2010 money game is state Sen. Catherine Pugh (D-40th District), who had more than a quarter-million dollars banked. Her top 2010 backers were two related trial-lawyers groups, the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association PAC ($5,500) and the Maryland Association for Justice ($5,500); the public-employees union AFSCME Local 1885 ($4,000); and Mahogany, Inc. ($3,000), a Baltimore construction firm.
Next up is Otis Rolley, the city’s former director of Planning, who had about $107,000 on hand at the end of last year. His biggest 2010 backers were former Maryland Secretary of Housing and Community Development Victorio L. Hoskins and his wife, who each gave $4,000, and developers James and Terry Rubenstein of Owings Mills, who spent $6,550 throwing him a fundraiser.
City Councilmember Carl Stokes (D-12th District) had just under $15,000 on hand at the end of 2010, but also carried $38,500 in debt, so he’s got his fundraising work cut out for him. His top donors then were M. Luis Construction Co. ($1,000) and Mahogany, Inc. ($1,000).
The Four Bears Slate, the campaign committee of Clerk of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Frank Conaway Sr., reported a negative balance of more than $6,000 at the end of 2010.
Wilton Wilson, a nurse, filed an affidavit of non-activity last year, meaning he hadn’t raised or spent more than $1,000.
Joseph T. “Jody” Landers III, a former City Councilmember who recently resigned from his long-time job as executive vice president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors to run for mayor, formed his campaign committee this year. It will file its first report in August.
City Council President
Rawlings-Blake won the four-way primary in the City Council president’s race in 2007, and spent almost $570,000, or about $13.50 per vote, during the year leading up to it. So far, this year’s race features two men with no record of electoral success—Leon Winthly Hector Sr. and Charles U. Smith—challenging incumbent Bernard “Jack” Young, who is serving out Rawlings-Blake term. Young, with nearly $235,000 on hand at the end of last year, is well funded; his largest 2010 donors were Rod L. Hill ($2,500), an engineer from Mississippi, and Yorkway Properties LLC ($2,000), a company co-owned by developer John Vontran.
In the year leading up to Joan Pratt’s unopposed re-election in the 2007 Democratic primary, she spent more than $17,000, or a little more than a quarter per vote. As of June 30, no one had filed to challenge her this year. In 2010, she raised only $3,250—but had about $150,000 in the bank at the end of the year.
James Kraft won a four-way primary in 2007, and spent nearly $70,000—almost $28 per vote—in the year leading up to it. Kraft had nearly $69,000 on hand at the end of 2010. His challengers this year—Jason Kahler and Helene Luce—will file their first reports in August.
The incumbent, Nicholas D’Adamo, is retiring this year, leaving an open seat. He won re-election in 2007 by spending more than $42,000, or about $12 per vote, in the year leading up to the two-way contest; he had a little over $114,000 banked at the end of 2010. None of the contenders to fill his seat—Cynthia Gross, Anthony Hamilton, Brandon Scott, or Jamaal Simpson—have yet to file campaign-finance reports.
In the year leading up to the 2007 primary, incumbent Robert Curran spent almost $12,000, or $2.45 per vote, to get re-elected in a three-way race. As of the end of 2010, Curran’s committee had $129.50 on hand and $3,500 in debt. The only Democratic challenger to file so far, George VanHook, hadn’t raised or spent enough money in 2010 to file a detailed report.
The nine-way, open-seat Democratic primary in 2007 was won by Bill Henry, who spent nearly $80,000—almost $28 per vote—in the year leading up to it. As of the end of 2010, Henry’s committee had $515 in the bank and carried $56,600 in debt. The only challenger to file so far—Scherod Barnes—reported nearly $900 on hand at the end of 2010.
In 2007, incumbent Rochelle “Rikki” Spector faced no competition, but she still spent more than $23,000, or $3.62 per vote, in the year leading up to the election. Her 2010 end-of-year report lists a bank balance of more than $29,000. Scott Carberry filed to run against Spector on June 29 but hasn’t yet created a campaign committee.
Incumbent Sharon Green Middleton won a four-way primary in 2007, and in the year leading up to it, she spent almost $72,000, or about $18 per vote. She had nearly $20,000 in the bank at the end of 2010. This year, she’s facing Rhonda Wimbish, who has yet to file a campaign-finance report.
Belinda Conaway’s 2007 victory in a four-way primary was gained by spending only about $3,500, or just shy of a dollar a vote. Information about Belinda Conaway’s campaign finances, including how much she had in the bank as of the end of 2010, was not available online. She had yet to file for re-election as of June 30, but assuming she does, the only primary competition she was set face as of that date is Nick Mosby, who will file a report in August.
In the year leading up to her 2007 primary victory in a five-way race, incumbent Helen Holton spent more than $81,000, or nearly $19 per vote. At the end of last year, she had about $7,500 in the bank. One of her challengers this year, David Maurice Smallwood, closed out 2010 with almost $1,700, while the other, Dayvon Love, will file his first report in August.
The incumbent, William “Pete” Welch, was appointed to serve out his mother’s term after she retired last year, and closed out 2010 with a little more than $26,000 in the bank. His mother, Agnes Welch, won a three-way primary in 2007, and spent a little less than $22,000, or $6.77 per vote, in the year leading up to it. Of this year’s seven challengers, two filed end-of-year reports for 2010: Abigail Breiseth, who had more than $11,000, and Quianna Cooke, who had almost $300. The rest—John Bullock, Derwin Hannah, Michael Eugene Johnson, Waymon LeFall, and Chris Taylor—either hadn’t formed committees by the end of 2010 or didn’t raise or spend enough money to require a filing.
In order to win the four-way primary in 2007, incumbent Edward Reisinger spent more than $100,000, or $58.20 per vote. He closed out 2010 with more than $20,000 in the bank, and is being challenged in the primary by Bill Marker, who listed almost $30 in the bank and $825 in debt at the end of 2010.
Incumbent William Cole was the 2007 primary victor in a nine-way race, and to win the honors, he spent nearly $80,000—almost $40 per vote—in the year leading up to it. He ended 2010 with almost $70,000 on hand, and no one has filed yet to challenge him.
In 2007, Bernard “Jack” Young won re-election in a three-way race, spending more than $87,000, or $30 per vote, in the year leading up to it. This year, it’s an open seat, since incumbent Carl Stokes—who was appointed to serve out Young’s term after Young became City Council president last year—is running for mayor. The only candidate who filed a 2010 end-of-year report, Frank Richardson, had no money and $300 in debt. The other candidates—Devon Brown, Jason Curtis, Jermaine Jones, Odette Ramos, and Robert Stokes—will file their first reports in August.
Incumbent Warren Branch won a five-way primary in 2007, spending more than $31,000, or more than $24 per vote, in the year leading up to it. As of the end of 2010, he had more than $8,000 banked. His two challengers, Tony Glover and Shannon Sneed, will file their first reports in August.
In a two-way primary in 2007, Mary Pat Clarke won by spending almost $14,400, or $2.29 per vote, in the year leading up to it. She had a little over $19,000 on hand at the end of 2010. So far this year, no one has filed to challenge her.
> Email Van Smith