Several Democratic candidates pursuing nominations for state legislature in the June primary poured in hefty amounts of their personal assets in the closing days of the campaign – but nevertheless fell short, according to reports filed this week with the state Board of Elections.
The reports, which were due Tuesday, cover a period from June 9 through beginning of last week — and are largely intended to outline the financial status of campaigns as the general election gets underway. But, given the dearth of competitive contests for state legislature and local office in Montgomery County this fall, the reports are notable mainly for their disclosures covering activity in the final weeks prior to the June 24 primary.
The list of top self-funders includes:
**Jonathan Shurberg, an attorney and long-time party activist, loaned his campaign $130,000 in the last two weeks of the primary, on top of $240,000 that he had previously advanced. This total of $370,000 in loans doesn’t count another $30,000 in direct contributions from Shurberg in his bid for state delegate in Silver Spring-based District 20 — for a total investment of a whopping $400,000 in personal assets.
Shurberg’s overall campaign spending of $425,000, said to have been made possible in large part by an inheritance from the estate of his late wife, dwarfed that of his opponents. But, when the votes were counted, it earned him only a sixth place finish among a nine-candidate field. The three nominations for District 20 delegate went to an informal slate organized by state Sen. Jamie Raskin that included incumbent Sheila Hixson, long-time political operative David Moon, and former Obama administration official Will Smith. Shurberg’s generosity to his own campaign did produce at least one winner: the New York-based firm of BerlinRosen, which received $225,000 for generating the heavy volume of direct mail Shurberg hoped would sway voters.
**Dana Beyer, a former County Council aide, loaned $311,000 to her campaign for the Senate seat in District 18, which stretches from Chevy Chase east to Silver Spring. Nearly half of this, $148,000, was provided in the final two weeks of Beyer’s race against incumbent Richard Madaleno, and enabled Beyer to outspend her opponent by better than 3-1 for the entire campaign. But Madaleno won, 58-42 percent, on Primary Day. Beyer, a one-time eye surgeon, also made previous bids for state delegate in 2006 and 2010, and the latest filings show total personal loans of nearly $500,000 to this year’s campaign and the two prior efforts.
The Beyer-Madaleno faceoff, which attracted widespread attention because it pitted an openly gay incumbent against a transgender challenger, was one of two hotly contested races for a state Senate nomination in the county. The other, in Rockville-Gaithersburg-based District 17, pitted Del. Luiz Simmons against former Del. Cheryl Kagan; Kagan won the primary by 55-45 percent. Simmons, who waged a particularly heavy direct mail campaign in the closing weeks, earlier had reported loaning more $85,000 of his own money to the campaign, and said he was prepared to spend more.
Update Sept. 2 – In a report filed with the state Board of Elections Thursday—two days after the deadline –Del. Luiz Simmons reported loaning himself $55,000 in the closing weeks of his losing bid for the District 17 Democratic Senate nomination. Combined with earlier loans, Simmons pumped a total of just over $140,000 in personal assets into his Senate campaign, putting him among the leading self-funders among Montgomery County candidates this year.
Simmons reported total expenditures of nearly $253,000 in his race against former Del. Cheryl Kagan. That’s considerably more than the $136,000 that Kagan reported spending in winning the nomination for the Rockville/Gaithersburg-based Senate seat. She did not make any personal loans to her campaign, according to the latest filings.
**Hrant Jamgochian, a health policy advocate making a second bid for a state delegate nomination in Bethesda-based District 16, loaned his campaign $30,000 in the closing days of the primary, on top of $120,000 in earlier loans. But Jamgochian again came up short, finishing fourth in an eight-way contest for three available nominations – which went to incumbents Bill Frick and Ariana Kelly and attorney Marc Korman.
Among some other significant self-funders whose personal largesse failed to put their bids over the top on June 24: Upcounty activist Beth Daly, who loaned her campaign for at-large County Council $87,000, with $32,000 of that coming in the closing weeks; Hugh Hill, who lent himself $50,000 in losing the District 16 Senate nomination to long-time Del. Susan Lee; and attorney Bennett Rushkoff, who loaned $75,000 in personal funds to a bid for delegate in District 15, which extends from Potomac north to the Frederick County line.
Personal “loans” to a campaign are rarely paid back – particularly if a candidate is on the losing side – and usually turn into de facto contributions. In fact, it’s often not easy to get paid back for such loans even if a candidate is on the winning side.
Kelly, who ran first in the District 16 Democratic primary for delegate this year, largely self-funded her campaign with a $100,000 personal loan. But she also is still carrying more than $75,000 in personal debt from her initial campaign for delegate in 2010.
Kelly and Korman were among the few self-funders to emerge victorious this year. Korman loaned himself $69,000 in edging out Jamgochian for the third delegate nomination in District 16, with $24,000 of that coming in the last two weeks of the primary.
The Korman and Jamgochian efforts are indicative of how the spending bar keeps rising for Bethesda area state legislative campaigns. While $100,000 was once considered the informal ceiling for a part-time job that now pays $43,500 annually, Kyle Lierman spent more than $190,000 in narrowly missing out on winning a delegate nomination in the 2010 Democratic primary – and Korman and Jamgochian’s expenditures this year topped that. Korman’s loans represented about one-third of the approximately $205,000 his campaign spent in the primary; Jamgochian’s loans comprised a majority of his total campaign spending of $220,000.
District 16 may be home to one of the few active contests for General Assembly in the fall election: former National Institutes of Health official Rose Maria Li reported raising about $12,000 over the past two months, and has $27,000 in her campaign treasury. Republican Li, who is seeking to appeal to an increasing number of independents in a district that is still an overwhelmingly Democratic district, last month held a fundraiser at which Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan was the featured guest.
Meanwhile, the Republican candidate for county executive, attorney James Shalleck, reported raising just $6,000 since June, with only $2,500 on hand. By comparison, incumbent Ike Leggett, coming off his primary victory over former County Executive Doug Duncan and Councilmember Phil Andrews, still has $425,000 remaining to spend on the general election. Given that he is likely to have little trouble winning a third term, that nest egg should enable Leggett to transfer some money to other candidates and causes – and collect some political chits in the process.
The latest reports show Leggett and Duncan spent an almost identical amount on their primary campaigns: a total of about $1.039 million for Leggett, compared to approximately $1.033 million for Duncan. Leggett did outraise Duncan by a factor of about 4-3, accounting for the difference between Leggett’s hefty campaign treasury and the $4,900 that Duncan reported still on hand.
Andrews’ austere campaign – unlike his opponents, he refused to take donations from political action committees or development interests – spent about $280,000. Andrews, who has not ruled out another run for executive in four years, reported less than $600 remaining on hand.