As Maryland’s candidates for governor head into the final weeks of their primary election campaign, some have enough money in the bank to blanket the airwaves with ads and support a robust get-out-the-vote effort. Others will scramble to pay the bills as the summer election approaches.
Here’s a look at the financial health of the leading candidates for governor, based on new campaign finance reports that cover donations and expenses from January through last week.
Democrat Wes Moore, an author and former nonprofit executive, and running mate Aruna Miller again lead the pack with the most money raised since January ($2.5 million) and the most money in the bank ($2.1 million). Combined with money raised in 2021, Moore and Miller have taken in more than $7 million in contributions during this campaign.
The Moore campaign released its numbers several days before Tuesday night’s reporting deadline in a show of confidence.
“When you look at the support we have received, it is clear that this people-powered movement can win in July, win in November, and bring the urgency and vision Maryland families need to the governor’s office in Annapolis next year,” Moore said in a statement.
Moore’s campaign expects to bring in even more money from an hour-long Zoom fundraiser with TV host and media mogul Oprah Winfrey held Tuesday night. Tickets to the event ranged from $100 to $6,000. Winfrey and Moore spoke for about an hour, with Winfrey gushing over Moore’s leadership potential. She recalled that Moore told her of his plans to run for governor on Jan. 6, 2021, as people stormed the U.S. Capitol building — and she expressed reservations. She joked that it was a good thing Moore disregarded her advice.
Democrat Peter Franchot, the state comptroller, was the first Democrat into the race back in 2020 and had racked up a war chest of more than $2.2 million in early 2021 before any other candidates joined the field.
At this point in the campaign, Franchot and running mate Monique Anderson-Williams have about $1.6 million in the bank after raising more than $670,000 since January.
Franchot was prohibited from raising money during the January-April session of the Maryland General Assembly because of his position as state comptroller. Anderson-Walker, who doesn’t currently hold any political office, was allowed to accept campaign donations during that period. Most of the money she raised in her own account was transferred to a joint account after the legislative session ended.
In an email to supporters on Wednesday, the Franchot campaign declared themselves as the “FRONTRUNNER in this crowded field,” citing a Baltimore Sun/University of Baltimore poll that showed Franchot with 20% support among Democratic voters who’ve made up their minds. (Another 31% of voters in the poll were undecided.)
Democrat Tom Perez, former federal labor secretary, and running mate Shannon Sneed raised more than $1.5 million across their campaign accounts since January, with $1.1 million cash on hand currently.
Perez put a new ad up on Washington-area TV stations this week, featuring his catchphrase that he’s part of the “GSD wing” of the Democratic Party — with “GSD” standing for “get stuff done.”
“As we enter the last few weeks of this primary, our campaign remains right on track to win so we can flip Maryland blue,” campaign manager Sean Downey said in a statement.
The Perez-Sneed ticket also is continuing to raise cash with the help of big names, with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi headlining a fundraiser in Montgomery County on Thursday.
Democrat John King and running mate Michelle Siri have about $800,000 in the bank after raising $870,000 since January. Despite having a smaller number, the King team noted that $300,000 of their contributions came in the last two weeks of the reporting period, a signal that interest in the campaign of the former federal education secretary is picking up.
“Throughout this campaign it has been clear, as Maryland Democrats hear John’s message and learn more about him, they quickly move to support him,” campaign manager Joe O’Hern said in a statement. “It is clear that John is not only a top contender in this race for governor, but has the resources and momentum necessary to win this primary.”
Democrat Doug Gansler, a former Maryland attorney general, loaned his campaign $800,000 in April to keep cash in the bank. Gansler and running mate Candace Hollingsworth have a little more than $1 million in the bank.
In a press release touting the campaign’s bank balance, the campaign made no mention that most of the money came from a loan rather than donations from supporters.
Campaign manager Shaun Daniels said in a statement that the money will be used to “strategically invest in paid communications to voters in every corner of the state.”
And he took a veiled swipe at Moore’s fundraiser with Oprah Winfrey: “No amount of celebrity money backing celebrity candidates will be enough to compete with the Republicans in a race that will turn on one thing: whether Maryland voters feel safe.”
Democrat Jon Baron is sitting on more than $1.6 million in his campaign’s account, having spent relatively little money since loaning his campaign $1.7 million in January. Baron, a former nonprofit executive, and his running mate Natalie Williams also took in about $200,000 in donations since January.
Baron and Williams recently put an ad on TV and internet showing the two of them riding a tandem bicycle and talking about programs they’d support “that are proven to work,” such as starting a statewide volunteer tutoring program and expanding career academies for high schoolers.
Other Democratic candidates include Ashwani Jain, a former Obama administration federal employee; Ralph Jaffe, a teacher and frequent candidate; and Jerome Segal, a philosopher and founder of the now-defunct Bread and Roses Party. Rushern L. Baker III, a former Prince George’s County executive, will be on the ballot even though he suspended his campaign last week.
Republican Kelly Schulz and her running mate, Jeff Woolford, have nearly $800,000 in the bank heading into the final stretch, after raising about $900,000 since January. Schulz, a former state commerce secretary who is endorsed by outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan, led in the Sun/UB poll with 27% support compared to Dan Cox with 21% support — though 42% of Republicans polled were undecided.
Campaign manager Hunter Mullins said the Schulz-Woolford campaign is setting fundraising records for non-incumbent Republicans.
“We have the right candidate, message and the resources needed to win the race and continue to move Maryland in the right direction,” Mullins said in a statement.
Schulz appears to be paying little attention to Cox, releasing a new ad this week that shows her walking among cardboard cutouts of the Democratic candidates and criticizing them while promoting herself as an alternative.
Republican Dan Cox, a state delegate, and his running mate, lawyer and activist Gordana Schifanelli, had less than $190,000 combined in their campaign accounts, according to their reports — putting them at a significant financial disadvantage compared to Schulz.
Cox, who is endorsed by former President Donald J. Trump, brushed aside the small fundraising numbers and claimed he was leading in unnamed “nationally recognized polls” despite being outspent by Schulz
“Our campaign is winning without desperation like the Schulz campaign,” Cox said in a statement.
Other Republican candidates include Robin Ficker, an anti-tax advocate and frequent candidate; and Joe Werner of Baltimore County.
In addition to the official campaigns, some gubernatorial candidates are supported by political organizations that make independent expenditures. Those expenditures — on ads, mailers and the like — can’t be coordinated with the candidate’s campaign. These organizations have more flexibility in accepting donations and aren’t subjected to the limit of accepting $6,000 per donor every four years that campaigns must obey.
Opportunity Maryland PAC has more than $600,000 in the bank to support Wes Moore.
Opportunity Maryland raised more than $350,000 since January and spent more than $120,000 on consulting, accounting and polling.
Opportunity Maryland’s money came from a variety of individuals and organizations — including $25,000 from the state teachers’ union, which has endorsed Moore. The biggest donations of $100,000 came from Nicholas Cortezi, an executive with an insurance brokerage and underwriting firm in Florida, as well as from a Massachusetts company called Rivermist Capital.
PAC for the People, which supports John King, has about $235,000 cash on hand. The group spent about $50,000, primarily on consultants and polling.
The biggest donor to PAC for the People is Michelle Boyers, a California woman who has been an educator and worked for philanthropic organizations. Boyers has donated a total of $120,000 since January.
Maryland Opportunity Inc., which supports Tom Perez, has been getting significant cash coming from labor unions, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which endorsed Perez. AFSCME sent $450,000 to Maryland Opportunity last week, according to finance reports.
Maryland Opportunity has already spent several hundred thousand dollars on TV ads touting The Washington Post editorial board’s endorsement of Perez.
The campaign finance reports come as vote-by-mail ballots are beginning to arrive at the homes of more than 400,000 voters who requested them for the primary elections. Early voting is scheduled for July 7-14, and the traditional election day is July 19.
The next set of campaign finance reports are due on July 8, covering money raised and spent between June 8-July 3.
This story has been updated to correct fundraising totals for Peter Franchot.