Maryland governor candidates spend millions on ads as primary voters start casting ballots

Maryland’s candidates for governor, doing everything in their power to reach undecided voters in a heated primary season, combined to spend more than $5.3 million in new television, radio and online advertisements in the weeks leading up to early voting, new campaign finance reports show.

Both the Democratic and Republican nominating contests to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Larry Hogan are coming down to the wire. One week of early voting began Thursday, and more than 90,000 voters had turned in mail-in ballots as of Friday.


The latest financial disclosures — which were due Friday by midnight and are the last required before the July 19 primary — show just how much the nine Democrats and four Republicans are raising and spending to reach voters in the final weeks.

Democrat Wes Moore, a bestselling author and former nonprofit leader, once again proved to be the most prolific fundraiser and spender in a race packed with experienced state and national political figures.


A first-time candidate who’s built an energetic and endorsement-fueled campaign, Moore had by far the most individual contributors in the first six months of the year and most were Marylanders who contributed less than $100, The Baltimore Sun reported last week.

His fundraising prowess continued in June, with he and his running mate, former Del. Aruna Miller, raising just under $600,000, spending $1.9 million and having a little over $800,000 left, according to the reports. They cover the period from June 8 through July 3.

Some of that was a high-profile boost from Oprah Winfrey, a longtime friend of Moore’s who hosted a virtual fundraiser with him in mid-June and narrated a 30-second ad released Thursday.

Former U.S. Labor Secretary and Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez also had a mid-June fundraiser with his own high-profile endorser — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Baltimore native.

Perez, along with his running mate, former Baltimore City Councilwoman Shannon Sneed, raised the second-most in the period behind Moore, about $450,000. They also had the second-highest amount left, at about $645,000, after spending nearly $979,000 during the reporting period.

Only Democratic state Comptroller Peter Franchot and former Clinton White House official Jon Baron spent more, dumping nearly $1.3 million each on ads and other campaign expenses in the weeks leading up to early voting.

For Franchot, who had about $629,000 left on July 3, it represented a final push to keep the slight lead over Moore and Perez that he’s held in recent polls. For Baron, who had about $337,000 left to spend, it represented the culmination of a campaign in which he’s polled in the low single digits while spending $1.7 million of his own money on the race.

“These reports don’t really change anything in respect to the money race,” said Roger Hartley, dean of the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs. “Each of them has enough money to carry themselves through these last days.”


On the Republican side, former state cabinet official Kelly Schulz maintains a significant financial advantage over Del. Dan Cox.

Both candidates reported having roughly the same amount of money they had a month earlier — $734,000 for Schulz and her running mate, Jeff Woolford, and $189,000 for Cox and his running mate, Gordana Schifanelli.

Schulz raised about twice as much as Cox in the latest period — $208,500 to $102,000 — but Cox’s total raised wasn’t all that it appeared.

As he’s done throughout his campaign, Cox listed campaign expenses, such as meals and mileage, as donations in the form of loans that he gave this campaign. In the latest filing, a new “loan” for $8,000 on July 3 is described as “payments for campaign work performed by Patience Faith and Josiah Daniel,” who are two of his 10 children.

His campaign reported a total of $42,733 in loans and unpaid bills owed to Cox or his direct family going back to last year.

How the candidates are spending to reach voters

While some candidates had been spending on television ads since early May, the ad buys appeared to ratchet up in June, as the state elections board began sending out mail-in ballots and multiple polls showed close races on both sides.


Between eight of the major Democratic candidates and the two top Republicans, the total spending between June 8 and July 3 reached $7.3 million, the reports show.

Of the $5.3 million listed specifically as “media,” about half was from just two candidates — Moore and Baron. For both, that included a mix of television and online advertising.

Franchot and Perez each poured about $715,000 into media expenses in the period.

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But the reports show Franchot took a different strategy from the rest of the field, spending heavily on flyers to voters’ mailboxes. He spent $285,000 on such direct mail ads. Moore was the only other Democrat who spent anything on direct mail, about $20,000.

Former U.S. Education Secretary John King and former state Attorney General Doug Gansler, both Democrats, also made their mark in filling the airwaves — spending $613,000 and $520,000, respectively, on media.

Hartley said it was significant that both the front-runners and those who had been struggling continued to have the resources to put up ads. All the candidates, he said, “are taking the opportunity to expand their reach into different parts of the state or to solidify their base.”


Campaign staff salaries, payments to consultants and pollsters, and campaign merchandise made up most of the rest of the field’s spending.

Perez spent nearly $66,000 in expenses described as “give away items” like “buttons, bumper stickers, t-shirts.” Moore paid a Washington, D.C., firm $47,000 for a poll in late June.

Schulz, the Republican endorsed by Hogan, meanwhile spent $73,000 on TV and online ads, another $21,000 on direct mail and about $122,000 on consultants and staff.

Cox, endorsed by former President Donald Trump, and his running mate reported paying $49,000 for media, $30,000 going to direct mail and nothing for staff other than the expenses he and his family made that were mainly described as loans.