With four state House representatives retiring, two delegates hoping to move up to positions in the state Senate and a County Council member and state senator campaigning to become the next county executive, Howard voters have a lot to take in this campaign season.
Two state-level races in particular, devoid of current incumbents, have garnered attention.
In District 9B, the Republican and Democratic parties will both have a primary, with two candidates on each side. And in District 12, 10 Democrats and two Republicans so far have jumped into the free-for-all race for three open House of Delegates seats.
In a hard-to-predict field of newcomers, campaign fundraising can be one clue to the competitiveness of a candidate, according to Paul Herrnson, executive director of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research and a political science professor at the University of Connecticut.
"Candidates run two campaigns: one for votes and the other for money and other resources," such as volunteers, donors and interest groups to support the campaign, Herrnson said.
"You cannot win the campaign for voters with an unsuccessful campaign for resources," he added.
While money isn't everything, it can allow a first-time candidate to achieve valuable exposure: "It enables them to attract more press coverage, to run campaigns, print out direct mail, etc.," Herrnson said.
Here's a look at where 2014 candidates stand financially.
In District 9B, voters from both parties have two candidates to choose from.
On the Republican side, Bob Flanagan, a former delegate and state transportation secretary under Gov. Bob Ehrlich, is up against businesswoman Carol Loveless. Democrats will choose between Tom Coale, an attorney, blogger and former Columbia Association board member, and Rich Corkran, a retired math teacher and Democratic Central Committee member.
Corkran has raised $29,145, of which $15,000 were loans from himself, and has $23,863 in cash on hand.
Coale has raised $22,142, including a $1,000 loan from himself, and has $18,240 in cash on hand.
Loveless raised $21,500, has $17,126 in cash on hand, and has no campaign loans.
Flanagan raised $9,600, of which $2,000 was a loan from himself, and has $6,273 to spend on his campaign.
District 12, with three open House seats, has so far attracted 10 Democrats and two Republicans. In a district as crowded as this one, Herrnson said, it's hard to predict what might happen. "When you look at [the candidates], money can help," he said. "But a 10-person race for three seats is really almost a free-for-all. And that makes it hard to predict who's going to do what."
In addition to money, Herrnson said, looking at demographic factors can help — women, for example, have an advantage and candidates who come from areas with high voter turnout may also have a leg up.
Among the Democratic candidates, Columbia Democrats Clarence Lam and Terri Hill lead in amount of campaign funds raised.
Hill raised $60,505 from 279 individuals and one organization, including $1,000 in loans and $3,000 in contributions to herself, and has $49,456 in cash on hand to spend on her campaign. Lam raised $27,600 from 202 individuals and 12 businesses, and loaned his campaign another $27,988 himself. He has $60,594.65 in cash on hand.
Both candidates are physicians, and received money from medical PACs — Hill collected $500 from the Maryland Medical PAC, while Lam collected a total of $1,500 from three medical PACs as well as $2,000 from the campaign of state Del. Dan Morhaim, who is currently the State House's only physician delegate.
Catonsville residents Nick Stewart and Eric Ebersole came in third and fourth place in terms of fundraising, respectively. Stewart collected $35,626 and has $27,799 in cash on hand, while Ebersole raised $22,463 and has $17,023 to spend on his campaign.
The remaining candidates have less than $10,000 each in campaign funds as 2014 begins: Renee McGuirk-Spence raised $16,955 and has $8,951 cash on hand; Rebecca Dongarra raised $14,260 and has $9,342 in cash on hand; Brian Bailey raised $11,112 and has $977 to spend; and Adam Sachs raised $1,565 and has $1,291 in remaining campaign funds.
Republican candidate Joe Hooe raised $100 from one individual and has $100 in cash on hand.
The second Republican candidate, Gordon Bull, filed an affidavit of limited contributions and expenditures, which indicates that he spent and collected a cumulative total of less than $1,000 in campaign funds leading up to the finance report filing date.
As of Feb. 4, Democratic candidate Mike Gisriel had not filed an electronic campaign finance report. Democratic candidate Jay Fred Cohen filed for candidacy on Jan. 8, the last day candidates were able to collect money before filing a campaign finance report.