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Brown surges ahead in Democratic money race

ElectionsExecutive BranchAnthony BrownHeather R. Mizeur

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown surged into the lead in fundraising in the Democratic campaign for governor as he built up his treasury to slightly more than $7 million.

Brown's strong performance over the past year vaulted him above Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, who on Wednesday reported having $6.3 million on hand.

The lieutenant governor combined with his running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, to raise $5.4 million over the past year. Gansler and his lieutenant governor candidate, Del. Jolene Ivey of Prince George's County, reported raising $1.7 million during that period.

The third candidate in the Democratic race, Del. Heather R. Mizeur of Montgomery County, reported that she raised more than $1.1 million over the past year and has about $750,000 on hand. Spokesman Steven Hershkowitz said the money includes $280,000 she received in the first round of funding through her participation in the state's public financing system.

The disclosures came late Wednesday as candidates rushed to beat a midnight deadline to disclose their campaign donations and spending through Jan. 8.

On the Republican side, none of the announced candidates for governor posted strong numbers. That leaves a door open for the expected entry of Larry Hogan, founder of the conservative advocacy group Change Maryland. Hogan, who served as appointments secretary under GOP Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., is expected to announce his candidacy Tuesday.

Matthew Crenson, professor emeritus of political science at the Johns Hopkins University, said Brown's fundraising success suggests that many donors view him as a winner.

"Having more money gets you more contributions. Everyone wants to jump on the train," he said.

Crenson said he was not surprised to see Gansler lose the fundraising lead he held a year ago, when he closed his books with $5.2 million on hand.

"That suggests a decline in political status," Crenson said. He suggested that the attorney general was hurt by a series of missteps last year, including reports that he ordered his state police security detail to disobey traffic laws and that he was present a teen party where participants said there was underage drinking.

Gansler aides put a positive spin on the numbers, noting that the campaign took in $500,000 more than the previous year's $1.2 million. Brown more than quadrupled his 2012 donations, though most of them rolled in before he ran into criticism over the botched launch of Maryland's health insurance exchange.

The lieutenant governor's campaign said his totals reflect "grass-roots growth, impressive endorsements, and widespread support." Gansler put out a statement saying Brown achieved his numbers by "shaking down special interests."

Brown's bottom line benefited from his alliance with Ulman, who brought to the ticket more than $2 million in funds he raised before last year.

Mizeur's total surpassed expectations for a candidate who recently was polling in single digits. Her campaign said 92 percent of her contributions came from supporters who gave $250 or less. She is running with the Rev. Delman Coates, a Prince George's County pastor.

Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary's College in Southern Maryland, said the fundraising shows that Mizeur has to be taken seriously as a contender. "She's done incredibly well," he said, by following Barack Obama's 2008 formula of building up a grass-roots network of small donors.

Mizeur is the only candidate in the race who has decided to accept public financing, under which a candidate accepts restrictions on large contributions in return for receiving matching money for donations from individuals.

Because she has accepted public financing, Mizeur is exempt from a ban on state officials raising funds during the 90-day legislative session so long as the donations are under $250. That restriction applies to Gansler and Brown.

Among Republicans running for governor, Harford County Executive David R. Craig reported that he ended the 2013 fundraising year with almost $50,000 less than he had on hand a year earlier.

Craig reported having $154,577 on hand. Last year, he ended with just over $200,000. During the past year, he reported taking in almost $250,000 — offset by more than $296,000 in spending.

Del. Ron George of Anne Arundel County reported having only $15,450 in the bank, and Charles County business executive Charles Lollar ended the reporting period with $5,731. Crenson said neither George's nor Lollar's numbers reflect a viable candidacy.

Eberly said he was especially surprised at Craig's numbers, given the Harford executive's long experience in politics and the early launch of his campaign last June.

"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."

In the race for attorney general, Sen. Brian E. Frosh took a commanding lead in fundraising over at least two of his Democratic rivals. Frosh, a veteran lawmaker from Montgomery County, has $795,900 in the bank, compared with $374,000 for Del. Jon Cardin of Baltimore County. Del. C. William Frick of Montgomery County reported that he had $133,000.

A fourth candidate, Del. Aisha Braveboy of Prince George's County, had not filed her report late last night.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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ElectionsExecutive BranchAnthony BrownHeather R. Mizeur
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