Editor’s Note: The views expressed in MoCo Politics are the writer’s and do not reflect those of Bethesda Beat staff.
Much attention has been given to the decisions made by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Comptroller Peter Franchot to not endorse Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous. Tongues also wagged about Senate President Mike Miller’s grin-and-bear-it appearance in support of Jealous. But what’s even more meaningful is that MoCo politicians and others around the state are failing to support Jealous with what really counts: money.
Maryland gubernatorial races are serious business. The Free State’s governor is enormously powerful when compared to other governors in the nation, especially when it comes to the budget. (The General Assembly can cut from the governor’s budget but not add to it or rearrange it.) Add to that the redistricting that will occur in the next term and the stakes are very high. In times like these, the Democratic Party establishment rallies around its nominee and demands tribute from General Assembly members and county officials to help put its person over the top. MoCo politicians, who rarely have contested general elections, are especially targeted since they have little reason to spend campaign money in the fall. Politicians subject to tribute requests may grumble a bit, but most are OK with investing in a future governor to keep relations smooth with the boss.
That’s not happening this time around.
In the prior three cycles, the Democratic nominees for governor and lieutenant governor were Baltimore City Mayor Martin O’Malley, Prince George’s County Del. (and later Lieutenant Governor) Anthony Brown and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman. All were veterans of the grip-and-grin rubber chicken circuit and had formed extensive in-state networks prior to their runs for high office. As Maryland Matters’ Josh Kurtz has written, Jealous does not come from that world and doesn’t seem terribly interested in it. That has impacted his ability to garner financial support from other candidates. The table below shows candidate contributions (including slates) to Democratic gubernatorial nominees over the last three cycles.
O’Malley, Brown and Ulman were raising between $140,000 and $220,000 per cycle from other candidates. That’s not much in the context of the millions required to run for governor, but they did obtain financial investments from other politicians who could help in other ways (like tapping their own networks of donors and volunteers). Jealous has come nowhere close to that despite having a former Democratic Party chair (Susan Turnbull) on his ticket. So far, he has received five contributions from other candidates: $6,000 from Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, $6,000 from former primary opponent Jim Shea’s slate, $1,000 from California Rep. Rohit Khanna, $212 from former Prince George’s delegate candidate Sade Oshinubi and $50 from Prince George’s delegate candidate Julian Ivey. Strangely enough, Ivey told The Washington Post that Jealous tried to talk him out of running.
As for MoCo politicians, they collectively gave $77,702 to O’Malley, Brown and Ulman over the prior three cycles. Their campaign accounts have so far given nothing to Jealous. From the 2006 through the 2014 cycles, the most generous MoCo politicians in contributing to gubernatorial nominees were former state Sens. Rob Garagiola ($14,500) and P.J. Hogan ($9,750), Leggett ($8,000), Del. Kirill Reznik ($7,000) and former state senator and current Attorney General Brian Frosh ($6,000). Garagiola and Hogan are now Annapolis lobbyists who have a strong incentive to give to, well, everybody. While several MoCo politicians regularly criticize Gov. Larry Hogan on social media and—less frequently— promote Jealous, none are investing dollars from their political committees in Jealous’s campaign.
Jealous has bigger problems than whether MoCo politicians give him mostly symbolic checks. For instance, as of Aug. 21, Hogan was sitting on $8.1 million in cash versus Jealous’s $265,519 in the bank. That follows more than $2.2 million in spending by the Republican Governors Association on Hogan’s behalf this summer. But the real reason why Democratic politicians, including those in MoCo, aren’t contributing to Jealous should be deeply troubling to both the candidate and the party at large.
They don’t think he will win.
Adam Pagnucco is a writer, researcher and consultant who is a former chief of staff at the County Council. He has worked in the labor movement and has had clients in labor, business and politics.