As he vies for a seventh term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican Andy Harris faces not only a reconfigured district but a Democratic challenger who raised more campaign money in 2021 than he did, according to Federal Election Commission reports filed Monday.
Democrat Heather Mizeur, a former state delegate and 2014 gubernatorial candidate, reported raising $1.3 million last year and has nearly $890,000 on hand.
Harris raised about $795,000 but has $1.5 million remaining, which is more than he had available at this time in the last several election cycles.
The Baltimore County resident, who has routinely topped 60% of the vote in his five reelection campaigns, is competing this year in a district recently redrawn by Democratic state lawmakers as part of the redistricting that occurs every 10 years.
The old district, prominently including the Eastern Shore, backed former Republican President Donald Trump by about 20 percentage points over President Joe Biden in 2020. Under the new map, which now includes portions of Anne Arundel County, the district would have very narrowly preferred Biden, a Democrat.
Analysts say the new boundaries, plus early campaign money, are giving Democrats hope of unseating Harris, a longtime Trump supporter and Maryland’s lone Republican in Congress, in November’s general election. The primary election is June 28.
“Political science research teaches us that challengers can be viable when they raise as much — or similar to as much — as the incumbent,” said Roger E. Hartley, dean of the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs. “It makes them viable for name recognition and shows interest in their campaigns.”
Another Democratic contender, Dave Harden, reported raising more than $250,000 last year and had about $77,000 on hand. Harden is a Washington consultant who spent years overseas with the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The FEC report covered the fourth quarter of 2021 and contained totals for the full year. Harris’ donors in the quarter included state Republican Party Chairman Dirk Haire; the conservative Citizens United Political Victory Fund, which has backed Trump; and various professional health groups. Harris is an anesthesiologist.
Mizeur, who does not take corporate PAC donations, said in a written statement that Harris “has never seen a challenge like this one.”
Harden said his campaign represents “the working families and small business owners of Maryland’s 1st District.”
Harris’ office and campaign did not respond to interview requests.
Harris promised in 2010 to serve no more than six terms. But he told WBAL-AM last year that he planned to seek a seventh term.
In January 2021, a number of deep-pocketed corporations pledged to withhold campaign donations to 147 Republican lawmakers — including Harris — who refused to certify the 2020 presidential election results in which Biden defeated Trump. Some companies suspended political donations entirely, while others suspended giving to the 147 Republicans.
The list included Exelon Corp., Marriott and Eli Lilly and Co., all of which had previously donated to Harris.
Marriott told The Baltimore Sun Monday that its pause remained in effect and that it is “continuing to evaluate the policy.”
Exelon said it wouldn’t rule out giving to the 147 but would withhold support “where we find that a candidate’s positions — when considered in total — are not aligned with our values or our business priorities.”
Eli Lilly said its employee political action committee lifted the candidate contribution pause in July “and resumed contributions on a case-by-case basis.”
None of the three companies contributed to Harris in 2021.
A survey conducted last year by the Public Affairs Council, an association of hundreds of business interests, found that just over 80% of companies and associations paused their political giving in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
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By July, most had lifted the suspension, but 13% said contributions to the 147 lawmakers were still on pause.
[ Critics of Maryland’s congressional redistricting are promising lawsuits. Legal experts say they face an uphill battle. ]
“Most have decided to either not give to the 147 for the 2022 cycle, or to resume giving to some,” said Kristin Brackemyre, the council’s director of PAC and government relations.
“The majority of PACs are still very concerned about giving to these members,” she said.
Of those that resumed giving, other factors came into play — they might have had a long-standing relationship with the officeholder, or the company has a large presence in the representative’s district — that they weighed against what happened on Jan. 6.
On that day, Harris joined GOP colleagues in arguing on behalf of Trump’s unfounded contention that some election results must be dismissed because of fraud or other irregularities. No evidence has been presented of any fraud.
PACs looked closely at the public stances taken on and beyond Jan. 6, Brackemyre said.
“What did they tweet? Did they sign on to the Texas amicus brief [asking the Supreme Court to overturn the election]? Did they make a public statement denouncing the violence?” Brackemyre said. “They have really tried to be thoughtful about it.”