By Bruce DePuyt
In announcing his budget priorities for next year, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) couldn’t resist a dig at one of the Democrats hoping to oust him this fall, Montgomery County state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno.
The governor began by describing past attempts by his administration to replenish the public financing fund that Hogan and Democrat Heather Mizeur used in their 2014 gubernatorial campaigns – money that was cut from the budget by the legislature two years in a row.
“This time we’ve learned our lesson,” Hogan told reporters on Tuesday. “We’re going to see if the legislature stops playing games with this important funding before we add it to the budget.”
“Interestingly,” Hogan said with a grin, “there’s somebody that’s talking about using that fund that voted against the funding. Just a side note,” he added, to laughter.
Hogan didn’t identify the “somebody,” but it’s obvious he was talking about Madaleno, the only Democratic candidate for governor who has already committed to using public financing.
In an interview, Madaleno defended his votes.
“Last year, I advocated for using that money instead to give a $10-a-month increase for people who are on the Temporary Disability Assistance Program, which is our state-only program to provide.. support for people.. usually disabled, some of them homeless (and) are among the most economically fragile people in our state. I just thought it made more sense to help those people.”
The Fair Campaign Finance Fund provides up to $1.4 million in matching funds to candidates willing to abide by contribution and spending limits. Advocates believe public financing efforts at the state and local level will reduce corporate influence on government policy and free candidates from the rigors of non-stop fundraising.
At his news conference, Hogan noted that “I’m the only person in state history to ever be elected governor by using public financing.”
Last fall, Jared DeMarinis, director of Candidacy and Campaign Finance at the State Board of Elections, told Maryland Matters that the fund held approximately $2.9 million as of August. If a candidate were to utilize the FCFF, “there would be technically enough funds to fully fund a primary campaign, however there will not be enough to fund the general” election, DeMarinis said.
“We’ll reach agreement (with the legislature), hopefully, and submit a supplemental” budget for additional money for the campaign fund, Hogan said, not sounding particularly optimistic.
Madaleno couldn’t resist a dig of his own. Noting that Catholic Charities was part of the lobbying effort last year to boost funding for indigent residents, he said, “Interestingly, both of us went to Catholic high schools, but I was the one willing to listen to the Catholic Church” on this issue.
Meghan Thompson contributed to this report.