WASHINGTON -- In the latest indication he is moving rapidly to head off potential challengers in Maryland's Senate race, Rep. Chris Van Hollen will report raising $1.2 million in the first quarter of this year, his campaign said Wednesday.
The Montgomery County Democrat, the first to enter the Senate contest, raised virtually all of that money -- more than $1 million of it -- in the four weeks since Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski announced she will retire in 2017, the campaign said.
That is a sizable sum, even for a high-ranking House lawmaker like Van Hollen. The fundraising took place while Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, was also in the middle of leading his party's messaging on the federal budget.
In all, Van Hollen will report having $2.5 million on hand when he files his campaign finance disclosure later this month with the Federal Election Commission. The campaign said 75 percent of the money raised during the first quarter came from Maryland donors.
Money isn't always a deciding factor -- Van Hollen beat a better funded primary opponent when he first ran for the House in 2002, for instance. But the large, early figure may give pause to some who are still deciding whether to enter the race.
The only other declared candidate so far, Prince George's County Rep. Donna F. Edwards, started off the year with about $30,000 in the bank, according to a report filed in January. Edwards has not traditionally been a strong fundraiser, but that could be overcome with help from outside groups like Emily's List, which endorsed her last month.
Other potential candidates, such as Baltimore Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and Rep. John Sarbanes of Baltimore County, have competitive war chests. Cummings, for instance, had nearly $900,000 in the bank at the end of last year. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Baltimore County had just over $1 million on hand.
Rep. John Delaney of Montgomery County, meanwhile, has a proven ability to raise large sums quickly and also a willingness to put millions of his own money into a contest.
Van Hollen, for now, is moving faster than any of them. He jumped into the race two days after Mikulski announced her retirement and he has rolled out a steady parade of endorsements, from the entire Montgomery County Council to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid -- support that likely helped sell donors on his viability.
"I'm grateful for the strong support our campaign has received from people all across our great state," Van Hollen said in a statement. "We look forward to a people-driven campaign focused on issues important to all Marylanders."