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In Senate race, Edwards relies on out-of-state donors

Nearly 80 percent of the political cash Rep. Donna F. Edwards raised for her Senate campaign in March came from out-of-state donors, according to an analysis of recently filed campaign finance reports.

Of the $260,000 in donations itemized on her campaign disclosure for the quarter that ended March 31, $58,000 came from Maryland donors — underscoring the campaign's reliance, so far, on national progressive groups for fundraising.

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The largest share of Edwards' money — about 26 percent — came from California, according to the analysis by The Baltimore Sun.

By contrast, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Edwards' rival in the Democratic primary to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski in 2017, raised 74 percent of his cash from Maryland — much of it from Montgomery County, where he lives.

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Because Edwards and Van Hollen entered the race in March, the reports represent only a few weeks of fundraising. The second quarter report, filed in May, will likely be a more telling indicator of how each campaign is faring in the competition for cash.

While several Democrats and Republicans are considering joining the race, Edwards and Van Hollen are the only declared candidates.

Van Hollen's ability to draw mostly from in-state donors reflects his status as the favored candidate among Maryland's Democratic establishment, said Todd Eberly, a political scientist at St. Mary's College of Maryland.

For Van Hollen to be successful, he'll need to protect his left flank from attacks by Edwards — especially important in a primary that will attract the most die-hard Democrats, Eberly said. Edwards has already swiped at Van Hollen for his statements and positions on entitlements and trade.

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Edwards, meanwhile, is going to have to work to parlay her national fundraising into dollars — and votes — in Maryland, Eberly said.

"She's got to find a way to take that support from out of the state and that passion national activists have for her, and translate that into some kind of support in-state," he said.

Out-of-state fundraising alone won't win a Senate race, Eberly said.

Edwards, from Prince George's County, has never been considered a particularly strong fundraiser, in part because she hasn't had to be in a House seat widely considered safe for Democrats. But she has attracted attention from national liberal groups such as Democracy for America, Emily's List and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which have extensive donor bases.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee portrays Edwards in its fundraising appeals as an ally to Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a liberal favorite.

The group says it backs Edwards because she is a "bold progressive" on issues such as domestic violence, Social Security, making college more affordable and "holding Wall Street accountable."

Democracy for America, meanwhile, has supported Edwards since her unsuccessful first run for Congress in 2006. The group's executive director, Charles Chamberlain, said it would make "all the tools in the arsenal," from fundraising to advice on strategy, available to Edwards.

Chamberlain said he didn't think voters would be put off by Edwards' out-of-state money because much of it comes from smaller donations from individuals.

The analysis does not include aggregate donations under $200, which campaigns are not required to itemize — so there's no way to discern where they came from. Van Hollen raised just over $44,000 in those smaller, unitemized donations, for about 4 percent of his take. Edwards had about $55,700, or 17 percent.

The campaigns had previously disclosed top-line numbers. The full reports provide more detail about who is giving and how the political operations are spending their money. Edwards has received attention for one top-name donor, Barbra Streisand, who gave $2,600. Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine also donated to the Edwards campaign.

Perhaps the most interesting name on Van Hollen's donor list was Judy Gross, wife of Alan Gross — the Maryland man who was imprisoned in Cuba for five years. Van Hollen was closely engaged in securing Gross' release in December as part of a broader deal to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. Judy Gross gave $2,000 to Van Hollen in early March.

Van Hollen also received donations from leadership PACs controlled by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid ($5,000), who endorsed Van Hollen soon after he announced his candidacy, and Rep. John Larson ($2,500) of Connecticut.

Edwards spokesman Benjamin Gerdes said the candidate, with more than 4,500 donors, "is building a campaign that reflects the hard work of Maryland families."

Van Hollen thanked his supporters in a statement.

"I'm grateful to have the support of so many people from our great state," he said "For me, this campaign is about Maryland families and Maryland's future."

Edwards reported raising $335,228 in the first quarter and had $325,000 in the bank. Van Hollen reported raising $1.2 million with $1.1 million on hand. He had an additional $1.6 million available in his House account — money he can now use for his Senate race.

The average cost of a successful Senate campaign in 2012 was more than $11 million, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

In the Democratic primary, Eberly said, Edwards and Van Hollen both are likely to raise enough money to get their message out.

Others considering a run for the Senate seat from Maryland include Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the former lieutenant governor.

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