If successful, state Del. Kumar Barve’s forthcoming bid for Congress would make him only the fourth Indian-American ever to serve on Capitol Hill—a fact that has generated as much, if not more coverage, of Barve’s campaign in his ancestral homeland as in the district he is seeking to serve.
And Barve, who was born in the United States shortly after his parents emigrated from India in the late 1950s, will be able to count on an extensive network of Indian-Americans to help fund his race for the 8th District congressional seat in next year’s election, based on a look at his first campaign finance filing.
Barve raised just over $66,200 in the three weeks between March 9, when he announced his candidacy, and the end of the first quarter of the year on March 31, according to a report filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission.
Of this amount, $10,800 was donated by Barve himself and his mother, Neera Barve, leaving about $55,400 in donations from outside sources. Of 33 individuals who contributed at least $200 to the Barve campaign, approximately 75 percent of the donors appear to be Indian-Americans residing either in the greater Washington area or across the country, according to information contained in the filing.
Barve, a 56-year old Gaithersburg resident who has served in the Maryland General Assembly for nearly a quarter of a century, is the only declared candidate for the Democratic nomination to succeed U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen—who is vacating the seat next year to run for the U.S. Senate.
But he will shortly have company in the race for the Democratic nomination: State Sen. Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park plans to announce his candidacy Sunday. Raskin filed a campaign committee report with the FEC in early April, just after the March 31 first-quarter filing deadline. Raskin will not have to file his first fundraising figures until July 15, covering the second quarter of 2015.
Barve, Raskin, and perhaps up to a half-dozen other contenders will compete in the April 2016 primary in a Democratic-dominated district that, while centered in Montgomery County, also includes portions of Carroll and Frederick counties. Because their current jobs are not up for election until 2018, both Barve and Raskin can run for Congress next year without giving up their state legislative posts.
Insiders believe that a candidate for the open 8th District seat will have to raise at least $1 million, and perhaps as much as $3 million, to come out on top.
“Barve was the only one of the potential candidates…to move quickly and to meet the challenge of an immediate FEC reporting deadline,” his campaign manager, Seth Maiman, declared in an email Wednesday. “The early showing, given the limited time frame, is a sign of the broad support that Kumar Barve will have in this race for the U.S. House.”
Barve, who served as the House of Delegates’ majority leader from 2003 until earlier this year, now chairs the House Environment and Transportation Committee. Members of the General Assembly are barred from raising money for re-election during the 90-day session—which this year ran from mid-January until April 13. But this restriction does not apply to state legislators seeking federal office.
The ban on fundraising during the General Assembly session is largely intended to prevent donations from lobbyists who have an interest in pending legislation. While Barve was not barred from seeking such donations as a candidate for Congress, his latest filing shows only one contribution from an Annapolis-based lobbyist: Eric Gally, a Rockville resident who runs Gally Public Affairs in the state capital. He donated $500 to the Barve campaign.
Two of Barve’s state legislative colleagues also chipped in: Del. Pamela Beidle, D-Anne Arundel County, gave $250, and Del. Dana Stein, D-Baltimore County, transferred $999 through his campaign committee. Stein is vice chair of the Environment and Transportation panel headed by Barve, and Beidle serves on the committee.
Two former delegates, Sam Arora—a fellow Indian-American who represented District 19 in central Montgomery County—and Galen Claggett of Frederick County donated $250 and $1,000, respectively. Both retired from the General Assembly in January.
Perhaps the best-known name on Barve’s contributor list is yet another fellow Indian-American: Aneesh Chopra, who was named by President Obama as the federal government’s first chief technology officer before making an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor of Virginia in 2013. He gave $1,000.
Although the largest portion of Barve’s funding in his first report came from individuals in Maryland, the District of Columbia and northern Virginia, roughly 30 percent of his money was from outside the region—with several large donations coming from California, Florida and Ohio.
Besides the candidate himself, who is allowed by law to donate an unlimited amount to his own campaign, other individuals are limited under federal law to contributing $2,700 for the primary and $2,700 for the general election, for a total of $5,400 per person. Barve contributed the latter amount to the campaign—although he could opt to donate more later—while his mother contributed the limit of $5,400.
Two other individuals— Shekar Narasimham of Dunn Loring, Virginia, the managing partner of a business consulting firm, and Makduda Zainulbhai, who listed herself as a homemaker from Cape Haze, Florida—also tossed in the maximum contribution of $5,400 apiece.
However, the portion of their contributions donated for the general election can be utilized only if Barve wins the primary a year from now, as is the case with a portion of the money donated by Barve’s mother. In effect, this means that at least $8,100— more than 10 percent of what Barve raised over the past three weeks—cannot be spent in his forthcoming bid for the nomination.
Barve received only one political action committee contribution—$500 from the Elk Grove, California-based American Innovation PAC. The Barve campaign reported spending just over $125 in March, leaving it with about $66,075 in the bank as of March 31.
In addition to Barve and Raskin, former District 5 County Councilmember Valerie Ervin of Silver Spring and Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez of Chevy Chase have signaled plans to run for the 8th District seat. Neither have established a campaign committee with the FEC, which is required by law within 15 days of a candidate raising or spending at least $5,000.
Others Democrats said to still be considering the District 8 race include Dels. Ariana Kelly of Bethesda and Jeff Waldstreicher of Kensington; former Del. Bill Bronrott of Bethesda; former Obama administration official William Jawando of Silver Spring, who was a candidate for state delegate in 2014;and Marriott International executive Kathleen Matthews of Chevy Chase, a former news anchor on Washington-based WJLA-TV/Channel 7.
The only Republican to express interest so far is businessman Frank Howard, who last fall ran a competitive race for state Senate in a district covering the eastern portion of Montgomery County.