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Leading Baltimore mayoral candidates spent more than $6 million on campaigns

The leading Baltimore mayoral candidates have spent more than $6 million trying to convince voters they’re the right person for the job ― and one, former T. Rowe Price executive Mary Miller, has now pumped more than $2 million of her considerable personal wealth into the campaign.

The latest round of campaign finance reports — filed Friday with a little more than a week to go until the Democratic primary — provide a new window into how candidates are paying for the blitz of mailers and TV ads they need to spread their message at a time when many people are staying home due to the coronavirus.

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Miller, a former U.S. Treasury official, reported pumping $500,000 more of her own money into her campaign, bringing her personal investment in the race to more than $2 million. Her campaign has led spending in the race with nearly $2.8 million in expenditures, including an aggressive media strategy that’s vaulted her from a virtually unknown candidate to among the front-runners.

In addition to her heavy spending on television buys, she also funneled more than $100,000 into reaching voters by mail since the end of April. She now has roughly $180,000 in her campaign account.

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Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young has spent the second most in the race ― more than $1.3 million ― but without the same movement up the polls as Miller. Young, who has struggled to gain traction, now has about $90,000 cash on hand. He started this election season in a stronger financial position than many of his opponents, thanks to a war chest accumulated over his two decades in City Hall.

But his fundraising has been lackluster in recent months; his campaign says he is solely focused on guiding the city through the pandemic and doesn’t have time to call donors. He raised about $42,000 during the last filing period.

Former Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah is the third candidate in the race whose campaign has spent more than $1 million. Vignarajah reports having the most cash on hand in the final push, with more than $360,000 to spend. He loaned his campaign $100,000 for the final stretch of the race.

City Council President Brandon Scott’s campaign has spent about $630,000 and reported having roughly $230,000 to spend. He was among the leaders in the field in a recent poll.

Former Mayor Sheila Dixon has spent about $430,000 to date while maintaining her front-runner status. She reported having more than $110,000 to spend in the last days of the race after raising roughly $97,000 in the last filing period.

Former Baltimore Police spokesman T.J. Smith trailed the rest of the pack financially with $9,000 left to spend. He raised about $28,000 in the last filing period. His campaign has spent about $160,000 so far during the race.

The Baltimore police union also has gotten involved in the race, the latest reports show, donating $6,000 ― the maximum amount allowed ― to each Smith, Vignarajah and Dixon.

A Baltimore Sun-University of Baltimore-WYPR-FM poll released this week showed a competitive race headed into the final stage.

Dixon and Miller were tied with 18% support among the likely primary voters surveyed. They were followed closely by Scott at 15%.

Vignarajah had 11% support, followed by Smith with 6%, and Young with 5%.

The poll of 400 likely Baltimore Democratic primary voters was conducted May 11-18. It had a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.

There are less than two weeks to go until June 2, the date by which voters must turn in completed ballots. This year’s election, upended by the coronavirus pandemic, is being conducted largely by mail with some voters starting to mail back or drop off ballots this week.

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About two dozen people are running in the Democratic primary. There are seven candidates in the Republican primary, as well as one unaffiliated candidate.

For decades, the primary contest among the city’s Democrats, who outnumber Republican voters by nearly 10 to 1, has determined who will be mayor.

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