During the final quarter of 2015, former Marriott International executive Kathleen Matthews and state Sen. Jamie Raskin continued to far outpace five other candidates in fundraising in the contest for the District 8 Democratic congressional nomination, according to reports filed late Sunday with the Federal Election Commission.
But Matthews and Raskin, for months regarded as the frontrunners, now must deal with the latest entry into the race: Total Wine & More co-owner David Trone of Potomac, who has launched a week-long TV ad blitz on all four Washington-area broadcast stations, as well as on 10 cable channels ranging from CNN to the Food Network.
For the three month-period ending Dec. 31, Matthews, a Chevy Chase resident, reported raising almost $504,000—the third quarter in a row she has taken in at least half of a million dollars. The Takoma Park-based Raskin, meanwhile, raised about $375,000 during the same period, virtually identical to what he collected during the previous quarter. It left Matthews with nearly $1.15 million in the bank as of the beginning of January, as compared to almost $870,000 for Raskin.
But such hefty war chests will be matched or exceeded by the $1 million Trone is said to be spending over a 10-day period to introduce himself to voters in an ad campaign that began Friday and extends through this week.
Trone—who, under FEC requirements, will not have to file a disclosure report for his self-funded campaign until just prior to the April 26 primary—had a 60-second biography ad, “Bet The Farm,” running on the ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates in the Washington market this weekend. A shorter version of that ad, along with two other Trone ads, will run this week on the broadcast stations as well as on cable TV systems viewed by District 8 residents in Montgomery, Frederick and Carroll counties.
The Trone campaign is making what is known in TV ad lingo as a 600-point buy: The aim is to ensure that 80 percent of adult viewers see an ad seven times or more.
For her part, Matthews—one of just two women, along with state Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, in what is now an eight-way race for the Democratic nomination—sought to step up her appeal to female voters. “Our campaign is powered by thousands of volunteers and supporters in Maryland and around the country who want to see more women in the U.S. Congress,” Matthews said in a statement just prior to the release of the latest FEC reports.
The most visible woman in Congress, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, has not taken a public position in the contest in the Democratic-dominated 8th District to succeed Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who is running for Senate. But the latest FEC reports show Matthews getting a boost from Pelosi’s husband, San Francisco-based investor Paul Pelosi, who donated $1,000. Paul Pelosi’s donation follows a recent endorsement of Matthews by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California, a close associate of Nancy Pelosi.
Among several other recent high-profile donors to Matthews is Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, one of 20 women now serving in the Senate, who gave $1,000.
Matthews—viewed with skepticism by some local Democratic activists due to what they regard as her lack of prior political and civic involvement in the area—claimed her latest fundraising report showed 85 percent of her contributions were for $100 or less, while declaring, “We raised more money and more donations from Maryland than any other state.”
Such claims are difficult to verify because FEC disclosure reports filed by candidates are required only to itemize contributions of $200 or more. An examination of Matthews’ latest filing does indicate that she is continuing to benefit from an extensive network outside the 8th District, in official Washington as well as several major metropolitan centers on both coasts.
Of the more than $460,000 in contributions from individual donors that Matthews collected during the fourth quarter of 2015, nearly 40 percent of those dollars came from about 60 donors who each gave $2,700—the maximum amount an individual can donate to an individual candidate per election. In fact, a half-dozen of these donors gave more than the maximum allowed by law for the primary election, leaving Matthews with about $18,000 that she can use only if she makes it to the general election in November.
While about one-quarter of the recent group of $2,700 donors to Matthews had Maryland addresses, the majority of these donations came from Washington, New York and the West Coast. One smaller West Coast donation of note came from actress/singer Barbra Streisand, who gave $500 to Matthews.
The Raskin campaign, which claims more than three-quarters of its donations to date have come in amounts of $100 or less, has benefitted from its share of well-endowed donors as well. During the final three months of 2015, Raskin reported around 40 contributors who either gave the maximum allowed donation of $2,700 or, in combination with prior donations, “maxed out” at that level. About two-thirds of the Raskin donors in this category were Maryland residents. Like the Matthews effort, some of Raskin’s donors went over the primary election limit: Nearly $13,000 of what Raskin collected can be spent only if he wins the nomination.
Because Raskin appears to have wide support among grassroots party activists, a number of insiders have suggested he will not be as reliant on a TV campaign as Matthews or Trone—and, therefore, will not need as much money to be competitive. In a statement Sunday, Raskin asserted: “All we need and all we want is enough money to get our message of serious and effective progressive leadership out to the people of the 8th District whom we have not yet met. And thousands of supporters have stepped up to make sure that we won’t be drowned out in the next 85 days. We are exactly where we want to be.”
The news from the latest disclosure reports was, for the most part, less positive for the remaining five candidates in the contest:
Veteran state Del. Kumar Barve of Rockville, regarded in the top tier of contenders when he announced nearly 11 months ago, continues to struggle with fundraising. Barve took in $112,000 during the final three months of 2015, down from $132,000 the prior quarter, and had $288,500—far less than Matthews or Raskin—in his campaign treasury going into the homestretch of the primary. While a long-time power in Annapolis—his latest FEC report shows donations from former General Assembly colleagues and several leading lobbyists—Barve remains relatively unknown in several portions of the 8th District, and has had to rely heavily on donations from fellow Indian-Americans locally and across the country. The latter group provided about half his contributions from last October through December.
Gutierrez, a Chevy Chase resident who is the only Hispanic-American running, has argued that a recent poll commissioned by the Raskin campaign—showing her in third place—puts her in the top tier of candidates. But she raised less than $33,000 during the final quarter of last year, and spent barely $21,000—about 10 percent of what was spent by the Matthews and Raskin campaigns during the same period. In large measure, Gutierrez’s candidacy appears to be floated by nearly $95,000 in personal loans she has made to the campaign. Anticipated backing from a national network of Latino donors has not materialized: Her Hispanic-American contributors are mostly from Maryland and the surrounding area.
Former White House aide Will Jawando of Silver Spring, 33, is the youngest candidate in the race and the only African-American He has been seeking to appeal to millennials as well as minority group voters. But, despite the endorsement and a $5,000 donation from the Congressional Black Caucus’ political action committee, Jawando reported taking in$82,000 in his latest report—down by 50 percent from the $160,000 collected the previous quarter. It left him with about $215,000 in his campaign treasury. One prominent donor to Jawando was former White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry, a Kensington resident, who gave $1,000. McCurry also donated a similar amount to the Matthews campaign.
Former State Department official Joel Rubin of Chevy Chase, who did not enter the race until early October, had the best quarter of any candidate besides Matthews and Raskin: He took in $159,000. One problem for Rubin is that about $23,000 of the total—more than 15 percent—can’t be used unless he wins the nomination. A dozen of his donors gave more than the $2,700 allowable maximum for the primary. Another issue for Rubin is he had less than $72,000 in his campaign treasury with four months to go until the primary. But he also has an asset unusual for an underdog candidate: a so-called “Super PAC” promoting his candidacy. The independent expenditure group, A New Voice for Maryland, reported raising $100,000 as of Dec. 31. The money comes from just one donor: William Benter, CEO of a Pittsburgh-based medical technology firm. Rubin is originally from Pittsburgh.
David Anderson of Potomac, who administers a Washington-based internship and seminar program, raised $23,250 during the period covered by the latest report, and nearly half of the $111,000 his campaign has raised to date comes from $50,000 in loans made to himself. Anderson continues to position himself as a contrarian somewhat to the right of the rest of the field on issues ranging from trade to national security to child-care assistance. “The progressive establishment in this race is biased against individuals who present alternatives that are against the status quo,” he complained during a recent candidate debate.