In several competitive Baltimore state senate races, challengers lead incumbents in fundraising

In several competitive Baltimore state senate races, challengers lead incumbents in fundraising
Del. Cory V. McCray, shown in the House of Delegates in this 2016 file photo, is challenging Sen. Nathaniel McFadden in the Democratic primary for East Baltimore's 45th District and outpacing McFadden more than 4-to-1 in fund raising. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

A wave of younger candidates, which swept over the Baltimore City Council two years ago, is now taking aim at the city’s incumbent state senators facing Democratic primary challenges next month.

In several competitive state senate races in Baltimore, some younger challengers are leading incumbents in fundraising — some dramatically so — with about a month to go before the June 26 Democratic primary, according to campaign finance reports filed this week.


“A number of years ago, a group of younger, ambitious folks in Baltimore City decided the status quo wasn’t working,” said Nina Therese Kasniunas, an assistant professor of political science at Goucher College. “They began raising money and supporting each other and we saw a shake-up on the Baltimore City Council. It just took time before they were ready to start challenging folks at the state Senate level.”

In East Baltimore’s 45th District, Del. Cory V. McCray reported more than $70,000 in his bank account, far more than incumbent Sen. Nathaniel McFadden’s $15,000.

McCray is a founder of the BEST Democratic Club, which has pushed young people to run for office.

A member of the Local No. 24, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union, McCray has received thousands from local and national labor unions, including the Baltimore Fire Officers and Service Employees International Union Local 500 PAC.

McFadden, meanwhile, has the backing of high-ranking politicians and lobbyists. He’s received contributions from U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young as well as lobbyists Bruce Bereano and Lisa Harris.

McFadden, who is president pro tem of the Maryland Senate and a senator since 1995, also gave his campaign a personal loan of $5,500.

In Northwest Baltimore’s 41st District, former teacher J.D. Merrill reported $115,000 in campaign funds. That’s nearly three times as much cash on hand as incumbent Sen. Jill P. Carter, who was appointed recently to the position and reported having $41,000.

Merrill received financial support from state Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, as well as the leaders of several powerful Baltimore organizations, including the Abell Foundation, the Goldseker Foundation, the Kearney-O’Doherty Public Affairs firm and the Gallagher Evelius & Jones law firm.

Carter, a former state delegate and the director of the Baltimore Office of Civil Rights, received $6,000 from a branch of the Service Employees International Union and $1,000 from Mayor Catherine Pugh.

Former Sen. Nathaniel Oaks’ name is still on the ballot in the 41st District, despite his asking a judge to remove it. Oaks has $103,000 in his campaign fund. He is awaiting sentencing after a federal corruption conviction. He raised nothing over the last three months.

In West Baltimore’s 40th District senate race, incumbent Sen. Barbara Robinson and challenger Del. Antonio Hayes are locked in a close fundraising battle. Robinson reported this week that she had $67,000 on hand compared with Hayes’ $56,000.

Much of Robinson’s tally — $43,000 — came from personal loans she made to her campaign.

Hayes received support from local unions and a $6,000 transfer from City Councilman Eric Costello.

In North Baltimore’s 43rd District, incumbent Sen. Joan Carter Conway, with $167,000, maintained a cash advantage over challenger Mary Washington, a state delegate who reported $94,000.


Conway, who has served in the senate since 1997, received $6,000 from Pugh and $4,000 from Young.

Washington received $6,000 from a branch of the Service Employees International Union and $1,000 from state Comptroller Peter Franchot.

In the 44th District, which spans West Baltimore and Western Baltimore County, incumbent Shirley Nathan-Pulliam reported having $36,000 on hand compared with challenger Aletheia McCaskill’s $10,000.

The winner will face Republican Victor Clark in November’s general election. Clark filed an affidavit saying he wouldn’t raise more than $1,000 during the filing period.

Kasniunas said she believes the competitive races in Baltimore could help drive turnout on Election Day, even though she senses little enthusiasm in the Democratic primary for governor.

“It could be that we see an effect where these races carry the water for the gubernatorial race,” she said.