Potomac-based national security consultant Amie Hoeber is continuing to put her money where her mouth is when it comes to her bid to oust Democratic Rep. John Delaney this fall. The same goes for her husband, Mark Epstein, a former telecommunications company executive.
Since winning an eight-way primary for the District 6 Republican nomination in late April, Hoeber has donated $210,000 in personal funds to her campaign, according to a filing late last week with the Federal Election Commission. That comes on top of the $350,000 in personal loans and a $2,000 donation Hoeber made to the campaign during her successful primary run, bringing to $562,000 the total she has contributed or loaned to her candidacy.
Meanwhile, Epstein in early June put $300,000 into Maryland USA, an “independent expenditure” committee created late last year to promote Hoeber’s candidacy—bringing to more than $500,000 the amount that the couple has laid out over the past couple of months alone. Epstein’s latest contribution is relatively modest when compared to the $2.1 million he had previously donated to Maryland USA, a so-called Super PAC, since it was created a year ago.
The contest for the seat in District 6—which stretches 200 miles from Potomac and Gaithersburg to the western edge of the Maryland Panhandle—is expected to be the most competitive election in the state this fall. And while unlikely to approach the cost of the recent Democratic primary in neighboring District 8—which was fueled by record self-funding by Total Wine & More co-owner David Trone, another Potomac resident—the District 6 contest is nonetheless shaping up as a high-cost battle between two wealthy candidates.
Delaney, who lives just several doors down from Hoeber and Epstein in Potomac, has so far not put any of his personal wealth into the 2016 campaign, according to his latest FEC filing. But he spent more than $2.37 million of his own money to win an upset victory when first elected in 2012, and put in another nearly $900,000 in 2014 when he was narrowly re-elected over Republican challenger Dan Bongino.
Delaney, who made a fortune as a financial services entrepreneur, regularly shows up on lists of the five wealthiest members of the House and Senate, with a net worth estimated at upwards of $150 million. Delaney loaned his campaign a combined total of $1.52 million in 2012 and 2014; a little more than $883,000 remains on the books as yet to be repaid.
However, since his close call in 2014, Delaney has been fundraising at a brisk pace without going into his own pocket. He has raised nearly $1.2 million from outside contributors over the past 18 months. This includes more than $287,000 from April through June of this year; about $115,000 of which came from political action committees, ranging from Lockheed Martin to the League of Conservation Voters.
Delaney reported having $340,000 in cash on hand as of June 30, as compared to a little less than $210,000 in Hoeber’s campaign treasury, as the contest is poised to kick into high gear after Labor Day.
Since the beginning of the campaign, Hoeber and Epstein have put nearly $3 million of their own money into the campaign, in the form of donations to Hoeber’s candidate committee or the Maryland USA Super PAC. So far, Hoeber’s campaign committee has reported just a little over $200,000 in contributions from outside donors. But the pace of her outside fundraising appears to be picking up: She reported taking in more than $75,000 from individuals and political committees between April and June, most of it following her victory in the April 26 primary.
In addition, popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has committed to headlining a fundraiser for Hoeber in the near future, according to sources. Hogan has a strong political interest in boosting Hoeber: Delaney is widely regarded as a potential challenger to Hogan in the 2018 gubernatorial election. Delaney’s gubernatorial aspirations could be derailed by a loss—or even another close call—in his re-election bid this year.
Leading political handicappers rate Delaney as the clear frontrunner going into the fall contest, largely because of what is expected to be high voter turnout in a predominantly Democratic state in a presidential election year. The Washington-based Cook Political Report classifies the District 6 race as “likely Democratic.” By the same token, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of U.S. House Republicans, has been touting Hoeber’s candidacy—although it remains unclear whether funds from the national GOP will be funneled into the District 6 race.
Hoeber emerged from the District 6 Republican primary on April 26 with 29 percent of the vote, with Washington County Commissioners President Terry Baker in second place with a little less than 23 percent. Another Montgomery County resident, businessman Frank Howard, ran third with 17.5 percent.
Baker raised and spent less than $33,000 on his campaign, but capitalized on his popularity as a local officeholder in the region surrounding Hagerstown. Howard spent about $76,000, according to the latest FEC filings, including a $50,000 loan to himself. Howard sought to capitalize on his ties to Bongino, who is now living—and running for office—in Florida, but who endorsed Howard in the closing days of the primary.
In contrast, Hoeber’s personal campaign committee reported spending a total of nearly $560,000 through June 30, virtually all of this directed toward her campaign to secure the Republican nomination. And Maryland USA, in its latest filings, reported spending more than $1.45 million for independent expenditure efforts—including TV and digital advertising as well as direct mail—to promote her candidacy, most of it directed to the primary campaign.
Unlike a candidate’s personal campaign committee, which has strict limits on the amount of donations it can accept from anyone but the candidate, Super PACs can take unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations. Super PACs and other independent expenditure efforts are barred by law from coordinating their activities with a candidate’s campaign committee—notwithstanding that, in this instance, the candidate and the donor underwriting the Super PAC happen to reside under the same roof.
Delaney, who had token opposition in the April 26 primary from long-time Democratic activist Tony Puca of North Potomac, has nonetheless been active on the campaign front throughout the first 18 months of the 2015-2016 cycle: His campaign committee reported more than $843,000 in expenditures during this period.
With presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton expected to win Maryland handily, Delaney has repeatedly sought to link Hoeber to Republican nominee Donald Trump—referring on several occasions to the “Trump-Hoeber ticket.”
Hoeber, while recently circulating an email petition demanding Clinton be indicted over use of a private e-mail server during her tenure as secretary of state, has touted her own national security background. Hoeber, a deputy undersecretary of the Army during the Reagan administration, has sharply criticized Delaney’s House votes on several defense and foreign policy issues.
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