Campaigns Heat Up

In a crowded Democratic primary, the candidates are slowly beginning to differentiate themselves from their opponents while also ostensibly setting the stage necessary to upset sitting Governor Larry Hogan in November.

The Democratic Party in Maryland is increasingly becoming more divided as the establishment and advocates clash trying to decide the best way to take on a popular Republican in a blue state.  Some party faithfuls believe tying the governor to Donald Trump will help their chances, while other Democrats have urged party leadership to develop a message that will directly address the doubts many voters have about their futures in Maryland.  It has largely been left up to the individual candidates to discern the best path and make a convincing argument why they should get the nod.

Hogan has amassed a large war chest with nearly $9 million dollars cash on hand between him and his Lt. Governor, Boyd Rutherford.  Since January, Hogan has raised over $1.2 million, blowing past all of his closest rivals. This amount is larger than the amount most democratic challengers have raised since they started their campaigns last year. The state continues to wait and see which challenger from the Democratic Party will take Hogan on in the general election in November.

With the shocking passing of the surging candidacy of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz earlier this month, the field is beginning to reorient itself as the finish line to the primary gets closer.  As his running mate Valerie Ervin struggles to gain traction at with the ballot box and voters face to face the rest of the field continues the march towards June 26th.

Establishment candidate and presumptive favorite, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, and his running mate, Baltimore attorney Elizabeth Embry, have failed to increase their exposure or to ramp up fundraising.  Operatives continue to be puzzled by Baker’s lack of lift-off. Baker’s argument for the job relies heavily on his turnaround job in Prince’s George’s County, bringing it back from the depths of corruption seen in the early part of the last decade.  He has argued that he has created more jobs in his jurisdiction than any other county in the state. Further, Baker touts crime reduction to a 30 year low in Prince George’s County, something many other jurisdictions seem to find appealing.

Former NAACP head Ben Jealous and his running mate, former Maryland Democratic Party Chair, Susie Turnbull, have picked up the endorsement of the Maryland State Education Association but have also had a burn rate higher than other candidates with most monies spent on staff salaries and media.  Jealous has been leading the campaign for Medicare-for-all and Universal Pre-k for all. And joining his biggest supporter, Senator Bernie Sanders, Jealous has pledged to end the student debt crisis and eventually make college tuition-free.

While Baker has consistently polled higher than many other contenders, his fundraising ability has trailed the likes of Jealous and Baltimore businessman and attorney, Jim Shea.  Shea believes common sense approach to government is what is needed, much like the approach he took when running The Venable Law Firm. Along with a community engaged city councilman from Baltimore, Shea believes his experience in running a large business enterprise will serve him well in Annapolis.

Over the same period of time, Baker has come in third with Jealous and Shea raising more cash for their bid to unseat a Republican governor in a state with a democratic leaning constituency.  Democrats hold a voter registration edge in Maryland of more than 2-1. Ben Jealous has raised $974,274 since early January – a number that dwarfs his competitors. Jim Shea has reported raising $671,674 during the same period, while Rushern Baker trails behind with $542,867 in fundraising, even while securing the endorsement of United States Senator Chris Van Hollen, one of the highest-ranking Democrats in the state.

State Senator Rich Madaleno, the lone Democratic challenger to accept public financing, has raised $181,257. Because of his decision to accept matching funds, Madaleno will receive $287,072 of public funding.  Madaleno has gone to great length to distinguish himself from the field. Madaleno has taken Hogan to task on his reluctance to stand up to Donald Trump and his budgets since he entered office in 2014. Many widely consider Madaleno an expert on the Maryland budget and issue of fiscal importance for the state given his roles within government for many years.

Tech entrepreneur and Obama aide Alex Ross has raised $441,552 since January, while also suffering a few missteps along the well.  Ross recently made an unflattering comment about Madaleno prancing around Annapolis that sent colleagues and LGBT activist around that state into overdrive.

In an April 2018 Goucher Poll, Rushern Baker, and Ben Jealous tied for most favored democratic candidate, while polling lowering than the incumbent Republican.  The next month will be telling as narratives hopefully sharpen and candidates bring their message closer home to the voters. With less than a month left before primary day, both Jealous and Shea are expected to significantly outspend Baker on TV and field programs around the state.