Sunday, October 6, 2013

ANALYSIS: MD Public Financing May Impact Gubernatorial Race // Fundraising Predictions for Brown, Gansler & Mizeur

Maryland Juice has been pondering the dynamics of our escalating race for Governor in 2014. But after talking with Free State political insiders today, I now have a better read on how the top statewide races might shape up this January. You see, Maryland campaigns will have to file campaign finance reports in January 2014, and we will then have a better sense of the amount of resources that will be available to contenders in various races. But I thought it might be worthwhile to clue in Maryland Juice readers to some potentially interesting scenarios that may emerge in coming months. In particular, it seems possible that Maryland's little-used public financing matching fund for gubernatorial campaigns may get used this cycle. Details and speculation below:

BROWN-ULMAN CASH ON HAND: Lt. Governor Anthony Brown started the current campaign cycle with $1.6 million cash on hand in January 2013. His running-mate Ken Ulman started 2013 with $2.1 million cash on hand. So the Brown-Ulman ticket had $3.7 million cash on hand in January, and The Gazette reports that Anthony Brown expects to post nearly $6 million when the next campaign finance reports (due January 2014) are released (excerpt below):
GAZETTE: Brown raised $2 million between the close of the 2013 session of the Maryland General Assembly in April and now, according to his campaign.

Added to the bank rolls both Brown and running mate Howard County Executive Kenneth S. Ulman brought into the election, the Brown-Ulman ticket now has $5.8 million, said campaign manager Justin Schall....
DOUG GANSLER CASH ON HAND: Attorney General Doug Gansler has not had a competitive race for years, and so he has been able to bank cash for his current gubernatorial race. That combined with his successful major donor fundraising means he started January 2013 with a war chest of $5.2 million. Assuming he's kept his fundraising moving at a similar pace, we could expect Gansler to start 2014 with $6-8 million cash on hand.

HEATHER MIZEUR'S POTENTIAL CAMPAIGN FINANCE MATCH: Perhaps the most interesting unknown in the upcoming gubernatorial fundraising cycle will be how much money Delegate Heather Mizeur has raised. Mizeur started January 2013 with about $350,000 cash on hand, but she has been aggressively fundraising since launching her bid for statewide office.

While some assume Mizeur may not be able to catch up to the large multi-million dollar war chests of Brown and Gansler, Maryland Juice is aware of an interesting wrinkle to this story. Maryland has a public campaign finance matching system available to candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor, and it seems quite plausible that Mizeur may take advantage of public funds for her gubernatorial effort. Here's how I understand the system to work (per Maryland Election Code § 15-101 to § 15-111):
  • Maryland established a public financing matching system that is open only to gubernatorial campaigns in the state. 
  • Candidates who participate in public financing are capped at how much they can spend in the election, based on the population of the state. In 2006, the expenditure cap was set at roughly $2.1 million, so in 2014 the cap will be set higher than that, given our state's population growth.
  • In order to qualify, gubernatorial tickets must raise "seed money" (eg: individual contributions up to $250) starting March of the year prior to the election (that means after March 2013 in this instance).
  • In order to be eligible for public financing, a gubernatorial ticket must raise seed money equaling at least 10% of the amount of the expenditure cap set for publicly financed candidates (example: in 2006, candidates would've had to raise about $210,000  -- or 10% of the $2.1 million expenditure cap established that year).
  • Candidates who raise the required amount of seed money (eg: at least $210,000 starting March 2013) are eligible to receive $1 in public financing matching funds for every $1 raised for the primary, up to $250 per individual donor.
  • Public matching funds will be provided no later than February of the year of the election (eg: February 2014).

BOTTOM LINE: Let's say (for purposes of example) that Heather Mizeur raises $1 million between March 2013 and January 2014, and most of that money came from donors of $250 or less, she could plausibly double-up those funds through a public financing match.  Common Cause notes that this public finance system has been in place since 1974, but was only used once in the 1994 gubernatorial cycle. We have no way of knowing how much Mizeur is likely to have raised this year, but my hunch is we could see a final spread of cash-on-hand that looks something like this:
  • Doug Gansler: $6-8 million
  • Anthony Brown: $6 million
  • Heather Mizeur: $1.5-2.5 million
While there is likely to be a cash disparity between gubernatorial contenders next year, $2 million would be nothing to sneeze at. And of course, I may be completely wrong in my predictions, so maybe Mizeur will actually raise more than that.


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