Maryland's three announced Republican candidates for governor have posted weak numbers in the campaign finance reports due Wednesday – leaving the door wide open for the expected entry of a new contender.
Larry Hogan, founder of the conservative advocacy group Change Maryland, plans to announce his candidacy Tuesday.
Harford County Executive David R. Craig, expected to be one of the leading contenders for the nomination, reported Tuesday that he ended the 2013 fund-raising year with almost $50,000 less than he had on hand a year before.
Craig, who filed a day ahead of the deadline, reported having $154,577 on hand at the close of the reporting period Jan. 8. Last year, he ended with just over $200,000.
The veteran Harford executive reported that over the past year he took in almost $250,000 in contributions and other earnings. That was offset by more than $296,000 in spending -- more than half of it going toward campaign staff salaries.
Hogan did not have to report on his finances because he set up a political committee to raise money only last week. He will not have to list his donations and spending until this spring.
Del. Ron George of Anne Arundel County reported Wednesday that he has only $15,450 in the bank – a number that falls far short of what it would take to wage a competitive race for a legislative seat. He raised $130,000 but spent $147,000, according to his report.
Charles County business executive Charles Lollar had even less – ending the reporting period with $5,731. He raised $65,329 but spent $59,598 of it.
Todd Eberly, professor of political science at St. Mary's College, said the Republican totals are “not impressive numbers at all.” He said he was especially surprised at Craig’s totals given his long experience in politics and his early start in the race.
“You’re running for governor and you have $150,000, that’s practically nothing,” Eberly said. “Hogan walks into this race practically on an even footing.”
Jim Pettit, spokesman for the Craig campaign, played down the significance of the totals.
"The emphasis of the campaign, thus far, has been seeing people where they live and work and getting seen across the state," he said. "This spring, both candidates will turn their focus to raising significantly more funds through their expanding contacts and will launch a fund-raising drive that will support a paid media campaign that results in victory on primary day."
The GOP primary in Maryland is typically a low-budget affair, but Eberly said past experience shows the eventual Republican nominee is likely to raise enough to wage a competitive race.