County Executive Ike Leggett maintains a large financial edge over his chief rival, former County Executive Doug Duncan, as their campaigns enter the final phase prior to the June 24 Democratic primary.
The latest reports filed with the Maryland Board of Elections showed Leggett – who launched an ad campaign on local cable TV systems Tuesday – sitting on a campaign treasury of $1.076 million as of May 20, five weeks prior to Primary Day. That’s more than three times the $343,000 that the Duncan campaign had in the bank as of last week.
From early January through last week, Leggett’s campaign took in just under $311,500 in contributions from individuals, business entities and political organizations, as compared to a little more than $257,000 received by the Duncan campaign.
The third candidate in the race of the Democratic county executive nod, Councilmember Phil Andrews – who refuses to accept contributions from developers or political action committees – reported raising $90,000 for the first five months of this year. As of last week, the Andrews campaign had about $94,000 available to spend in the closing weeks of the campaign. Unlike Duncan and Leggett, Andrews has yet to mount a TV advertising effort.
The underfunded Andrews campaign has relied on at least one unconventional tactic: It asked supporters to provide stamped, addressed envelopes in which letters of endorsement can be sent to voters. The result has been about 150 Andrews supporters underwriting stationery and postage, yielding $23,000 in in-kind donations on top of hard cash received by the campaign.
The Leggett campaign has spent a relatively modest $206,000 since the beginning of the year — with nearly half of that, about $97,000, for a mailing to voters handled by NextGen, a Washington-based consulting firm. Leggett was outspent by Duncan during this period: The Duncan campaign laid out about $245,000, while Andrews’ bid spent nearly $115,000.
The latest reports, which were due Tuesday at the state Board of Elections, contain breakdowns of contributions to the three candidates, but also provide details on the campaign structures and strategy that campaign officials are often reluctant to discuss publicly.
For example, Duncan’s latest filing lists $21,000 to Washington-based Spiros Consulting, a firm that specializes in so-called opposition research. Such firms normally look into not only the potential weak points of opposing candidates, but also examine possible vulnerabilities of the candidate that hired the firm — for purposes of pre-empting attacks from opponents.
The Duncan campaign earlier this year acknowledged hiring an opposition research firm, but had declined to identify it at the time. The precise nature of Spiros Consulting’s work for Duncan – which stretches back to late 2013, according to the latest campaign filing – remains unclear. Spiros Consulting also has been retained for the past year by the gubernatorial campaign of Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, according to Board of Election filings.
The Andrews campaign had previously acknowledged hiring a New York-based opposition research firm, Grand Central Consulting: Andrews listed a payment of $3,000 to that firm in his latest report. As of last week, the Leggett campaign had not hired an opposition research firm.
Both the Duncan and Leggett campaigns have retained pollsters in recent months. Leggett paid Washington-based Hart Research Associates $29,000, while Duncan spent $35,000 for Chevy Chase-based Hickman Analytics in conjunction with a poll conducted in late March.
Despite his frontrunner status, Leggett has been sparing in the hiring of campaign staff: For much of this year, the only paid staffer has been campaign manager Scott Goldberg. The new reports indicate that a couple of field staffers have been hired in the past month to assist in the task of identifying sympathetic voters and turning them out on Primary Day.
In contrast, Duncan has had a staff of four on board since the beginning of the year – including campaign manager Kurt Staiger and political director John Duncan, the candidate’s son. This staff has expanded to seven over the past couple of months, with the hiring of a field director and two other staffers.
Andrews has relied on a single staffer, campaign manager Chandler Bellanca, although the reports indicate the hiring of a second staffer in late April. More than half of Andrews’ expenditures this year, $68,000, have gone to Washington-based Apollo Political, a consulting firm whose founding partner, Sean Rankin, managed then state Sen. Rob Garagiola’s unsuccessful congressional bid in 2012. Of the amount paid to Apollo, $14,000 is listed for online advertising, with the rest not specified. Duncan has paid his long-time consultant, Washington-based SDK Knickerbocker, about $70,000, largely for the production and placement of his recent TV advertising.
On the contribution side, Leggett and Duncan continue to collect significant amounts from real estate and development interests – with some of the latter hedging their bets.
Andrew Chod, vice president of Germantown-based Minkoff Development, gave $2,000 each to Leggett and Duncan. Bethesda-based developer Nathan Landow, a former Maryland Democratic Party chair, also gave to both – but provided $2,000 to Leggett and $1,000 to Duncan.
Two committees tied to real estate industry – the Greater Capital Area Political Action Committee and the Realtors Political Action Committee – gave a total of $12,000 to Leggett, while the Apartment and Office Building Association Maryland State PAC donated $3,000 to Duncan.
There are several notable names sprinkled throughout the contribution lists filed by the three candidates.
Joshua Rales, a wealthy Potomac real estate investor who sought the Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat in 2006, gave $4,000 to Andrews. That puts him at odds with his brothers, Mitchell and Steven Rales, who run the Dannaher Corp., a large technology and manufacturing firm. Reports filed in January show Mitchell and Steven Rales and several of their employees donating a total of $20,000 to Leggett.
Bethesda resident Kenneth Feinberg, best known for overseeing compensation funds for the victims of several recent disasters, gave $1,000 to Duncan. And, even as his union this week continues to debate whether to make an endorsement in the contest, UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO President Gino Renne weighed into the race in a modest way: He donated $50 to Duncan.
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Takoma Park resident, has remained neutral in the county executive contest, but Duncan’s filing nonetheless lists a $2,000 transfer from Franchot’s political organization. According to sources, this represents a refund of a contribution that Duncan made to Franchot several years ago – which Duncan asked be returned this year given his need for funds. Franchot obliged, as he did in response to a similar recent request from Bethesda state Sen. Brian Frosh, who is locked in a competitive race for the Democratic nomination for attorney general.