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Madaleno to accept public financing in governor's race

State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. has become the first of the eight contenders for the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nomination to choose public financing for his primary campaign.

The Montgomery County lawmaker said his decision to accept public funding, announced Friday, gives him the opportunity to raise as much as $2.8 million, with an estimated $1.4 million of it in public funds, for the June 26 primary — not far from the amount he had budgeted for his bid to become the Democratic challenger to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan next November.

“Clearly, Governor Hogan is planning on such an extravagant, bank-breaking, history-making campaign from a spending standpoint that we as Democrats owe it to our voters and donors to say we’re not going to waste it on a primary,” Madaleno said. “The Republicans have been helped by their handful of billionaires that fund everything on the Republican side, so we have to stand up for something different.”

He said that if he wins the primary, he will decide whether to accept public funds in the general election, but expressed doubt whether it would yield enough money to be competitive with a generously financed sitting governor.

By accepting public funding — and the limits that come along with the dollars — Madaleno is following in the footsteps of the man whose job he is seeking.

Hogan accepted public financing for the 2014 primary and general elections when he defeated three Republican rivals that June and then-Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown in November. On the Democratic side, Del. Heather Mizeur chose public financing and wound up finishing a close third behind Brown and then-Attorney General Douglas Gansler in the primary.

Madaleno, a fierce critic of the governor, acknowledged the parallels between his campaign and Hogan’s 2014 bid.

“He used this to defeat a much better-funded opponent because he ran a strong campaign with a strong candidate,” Madaleno said.

And that, Madaleno said, is what he intends to do.

Under Maryland’s public financing law, a candidate for governor can receive matching funds from the State Board of Elections for the first $250 given by an individual.

Before receiving public financing, a 2018 candidate must raise “seed money” of about $265,000 in contributions from individuals. Contributions from businesses, political action committees or associations do not count toward that threshold.

In accepting public financing, candidates must abide by spending limits. Jared DeMarinis, the election board’s director of campaign finance, said the final limit won’t be known until after Jan. 1, but he confirmed Madaleno’s estimated total.

DeMarinis said Madaleno could gain an advantage by becoming the first in the public financing pool because he would have the first shot at getting his seed money matched 100 percent. If the number of candidates seeking public financing increases, and if they hit their seed money targets, the fund might have to match at less than 100 cents on the dollar, DeMarinis said.

Madaleno also gains another advantage by accepting public financing. As a legislator, he would have been prohibited from raising money during the 90-day legislative session that begins Jan. 10. As a candidate accepting public funds, DeMarinis said, he will be allowed to raise money during the session from individuals up to the $250 limit.

DeMarinis said there is just under $3 million in matching public funds available for the primary campaign.

In 2014, Hogan received more than $320,000 in public funds for the primary and almost $2.6 million for the general election. Mizeur received more than $780,000 for her primary campaign.

Madaleno’s rivals have until Feb. 27 to decided whether to seek public financing.

Also seeking the Democratic nomination are Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, former NAACP national president Ben Jealous, former Venable managing partner Jim Shea, former White House aide Krish Vignarajah, entrepreneur Alec Ross and consulting firm owner Maya Rockeymoore Cummings.

mdresser@baltsun.com

twitter.com/michaeltdresser

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