Campaign finance reports shows glaring differences in local city races by Hassan Giordano

(BALTIMORE – January 19, 2018) – Yesterday marked one of the most important milestones in Maryland’s 2018 gubernatorial contest; and though we are still 158 days away from the all-important Primary Elections – set to take place on June 26, 2018, the latest campaign finance reports in many ways show political insiders and voters alike who will be serious contenders for the various state positions up for grabs later this year.

Starting with the crucial Democratic primary set to take place for the city’s State’s Attorney’s race, it seems like this contest will be a record-setting race in regards to money raised and spent before it’s all said and done. The first-term incumbent, Marilyn Mosby, will likely be facing two credible challengers – though neither one has officially filed to run for the seat as of yet. And it looks like Mosby, who became a household name and political rock star almost overnight after she indicted six Baltimore City police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, will have her hands full with the two attorneys looking to dethrone the People’s Princess of Baltimore.

The most visible and engaged challenger has been defense attorney Ivan Bates, whose fundraising prowess netted him a total of $250,000 from hundreds of local residents and high-profiled attorneys and professionals. Having $184,000 cash-on-hand and a profile as one of the best defense attorneys in the city, Bates is well-positioned to take on the Mosby juggernaut.

However, he also has to contend with former assistant Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah, who has reported raising $175,000 in contributions, short of Bates’ quarter-million dollar haul; but he also has reported to have lent his campaign another $250,000, putting his cash-on-hand total at a whopping $412,000 – $50,000 short of what Mosby and Bates have combined. The brother of gubernatorial candidate Krish Vignarajah, it seems as if this powerful family is looking to start a political dynasty this year.

But don’t underestimate the power of the princess, as Mrs. Mosby has almost 100% name recognition across the City of Baltimore, and is a beloved politician within the African American community, especially amongst its seniors who continue to make up the city’s largest political bloc of voters. Mosby, who overcame a fundraising deficit of nearly 4-to-1 to defeat former State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein in 2014, has no problem lacing up the running shoes and bringing out the troops to blanket the city talking one-on-one with voters. The wife of former City Councilman and current state Delegate Nick Mosby, Marilyn has brought in $330,000 last year, having $285k cash-on-hand to stave off her likely opponents.

In regards to the various state senate campaigns that are taking shape across the city, and remain some of the most interesting races to watch, it seems as if the first-term state delegates looking to challenge their district state Senators are definitely living up to the hype. In the 45th district, Delegate Cory McCray continued his penchant for raising campaign cash, bringing in a whopping $104,000 in contributions since announcing his decision to run for the district’s senate seat against longtime incumbent, State Senator Nathaniel McFadden.

In fact, it seems as if McCray’s campaign efforts have shaken up the Senator so much that he seems to have forgotten to file his campaign report on time. The six-term state senator last reported having only roughly $14,000 in his last report, and while it is likely he will show a considerable amount of cash once he does file, at this point it’s McCray’s time to shine until he shows us something different.

The other first-term state Delegate to challenge his state senator is Delegate Antonio Hayes, who raised an impressive amount of money over the past year – bringing in almost double what state senator Barbara Robinson raised. Hayes, a former aide to Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, reported to have raised roughly $106,000, and has even more cash-on-hand, showing about $114,000 in the bank. Robinson on the other hand, a close associate with Dixon political rival Mayor Catherine Pugh, has reported raising $62,000 and having about that much left in the bank.

Another incumbent state Ssenator facing a serious challenge is in the 44th district, which makes up parts of Baltimore City and Baltimore County. Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam seems to have easily outraised her opponent, union leader Alethia McCaskill, reporting to have nearly ten times the amount of money in the bank as the first-time candidate. The longtime politician, Nathan-Pulliam pulled in about $27,750 over the past year, but added with a previous balance of roughly $33,500 and not spending but $16,000, she has roughly $45,000 cash-on-hand.

McCaskill, on the other hand, raised roughly $14,000, having spent half of that thus far, leaving an estimated $7,000, though her bank account shows a balance of less than $5,000. The AFSCME union leader saw $9,000 of the estimated $14k raised come from local union PAC money, while the senator only received less than a $1,000 in political PAC money while raking in roughly $27,000 in contributions – compared to $5,400 raised by McCaskill.

The other state senate race that everyone is talking about pits third-term state Delegate Mary Washington against longtime state senator Joan Carter Conway. And boy did these two rake in the dough. Washington, who announced last year that she would forgo running for re-election to the House, and instead chose to run for a state senate seat that many have felt has all but been vacant over the past year or two, since Conway has flirted with retirement, reported raising roughly $94,000 over the past year, adding to the over $80,000 she had in the account previously.

However, after spending over $80,000 for campaign expenses, she currently has about $95,000 in the bank. Conway on the other hand, who chairs one of the Senate’s more influential standing committees – the Educational, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee – has reported having over $200,00 in the bank. The 43rd district state Ssenator who was appointed to the seat in 1997, Conway has long held a financial advantage over anyone who has dared challenge her authority. And this election is no different.

After raising $118,000 over the past year, coupled with the $102,000 she had in the bank from years past, and the fact that she has only spent roughly $25,000 on her campaign thus far, the longtime state senator looks poised to run a spirited campaign against her district colleague.

Last but not least, the questionable Senate campaign over in the 41st district shows that currently, the front-runner for this seat is still anyone’s guess. Nathaniel Oaks, the incumbent state Senator for the district who currently faces multiple federal charges including bribery and obstruction of justice, stands strong with a war chest of roughly $123,000 – far and away more than anyone discussed as possibly challenging him for the senate seat.

However, Oaks seems to have only raised $5,400 all of last year, which mostly came before word of his indictment came down in April. He already had roughly $118,000 in the bank prior to last year, and has only spent $754 on his campaign to-date. The only candidate to have filed to run for the senate seat thus far is the son-in-law of former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, J. D. Merrill. And it seems as if this young man is raising money at the pace of his in-law when he was a young politico.

Merrill reported having raised roughly $65,000, with $60,000 left in the bank, which is a good haul for a first-time candidate running in a district where he remains largely an unknown commodity. And given the fact that nobody knows whether former 41st district state Delegate Jill Carter, or former Baltimore City Mayor Sheila Dixon, will enter the race for state senator; or if Senator Oaks will still be around come June 26th, this kind of jumpstart makes Merrill the hands-on favorite to win this seat?

Now, if former Delegate Carter does enter the race, she will do so with only $1,800 in the bank, a far cry from the amount of money she will need to ensure victory in her old district. If former Mayor Dixon enters the race, she will have roughly $12,000 to start with. But given her household name recognition and list of political contributors, it shouldn’t take her long to gather the amount of money and support necessary to make this district election one for the ages.

And it seems as if the two other citywide incumbents don’t have much to worry about at this point. Sheriff John Anderson and Register of Wills Belinda Conaway each have challengers who don’t have but $3,000 – combined! Former Baltimore City Police commander, Stanley Brandford, reported only raising $1,500 for the citywide Sheriff’s race, and spending $155 while Robert Higginbotham, II has tried mounting a campaign for Register of Wills while only raising $1,800 and spending $80 of that.

On the other hand, the household names of Anderson and Conaway reign supreme, with Sheriff Anderson raising roughly $47,000, added to a previous total of $60,000 and spending $22k, leaving him with roughly $85,000 cash-on-hand. Mrs. Conaway reported raising roughly $20,000, coupled with the $13,000 she had previously while spending $5,500 thus far, giving her $27,500 remaining in the bank.

(There is one other citywide race other than the Orphans’ Court and Circuit Court Judges on the ballot, and that is the race for the open Clerk of the Circuit Court position. However, as previously stated in my articles, since I am a democratic candidate for this seat, I will not be reporting on this race, so the reader can know they are getting a fare assessment of my political reporting. If you want to find out the totals for the candidates running for this seat, simply go to the State Board of Elections website, pull up the campaign finance link and enter the names of the candidates running for this seat, which you can find on the same BOE website under the 2018 Candidates List link.)

**This is only an overview article of the citywide races that are of interest, but I will be doing a more in-depth series of articles breaking down each legislative district across the city, as well as some of the key citywide races and a few covering the Governor’s race and a few other key races across the State of Maryland.