Democrat Jesse Colvin has gotten a big financial boost in his effort to oust Republican incumbent Rep. Andrew P. Harris in Maryland’s 1st District — pulling in more than $883,000 in the third quarter of the year, with help from Washington, D.C., and Maryland Democratic insiders as well as a few Republican friends.
The latest campaign finance disclosure reports, filed late Monday at the Federal Election Commission (FEC), showed Colvin outraising Harris by more than 3-1 — as the incumbent reported taking in just $254,000 for the period from July 1 to Sept. 30. Colvin’s latest numbers allowed him to pass Harris for the entire 2017-2018 election cycle: Over the past 21 months, he has raised nearly $1.575 million, $75,000 above the $1.5 million taken in by Harris.
Thanks to fundraising from prior election cycles, Harris — first elected in 2010 — still had a big lead in cash on hand as of Oct. 1, with close to $1.4 million in his campaign treasury. But Colvin was able to significantly narrow the gap, reporting a little more than $750,000 as of the end of the third quarter. That was up sharply from the $188,000 he had on hand three months earlier, when his campaign war chest had been drained in winning a six-way June 26 primary in the expansive district, which stretches across 12 counties from Baltimore’s northwestern suburbs to the southern edge of the Eastern Shore.
And Colvin — whose campaign claimed that 84 percent of the contributions in his 882-page filing came from inside Maryland — was clearly energized by his support at the grass-roots level, with the latest figures showing him outraising Harris by more a more than 3-2 margin ($1.5 million to $943,000) among individual contributors during the current election cycle.
“The press doesn’t know how to read this,” Colvin crowed in a blast email to supporters Tuesday, following release of his FEC filing. “The prognosticators are confused. I think we broke the national party’s handicapping metrics.”
It was a swipe at a couple of independent, inside-the-Beltway handicappers, The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections, which have consistently placed the 1st District in the “solid Republican” category this year. In an update Tuesday, 538.com pollster/pundit Nate Silver continued to put the odds against Colvin upsetting Harris at 99-1, with Colvin likely to end up 20 points behind Harris on Nov. 6.
“Had Democrats not written the district off in the last redistricting round, they might have a shot. They sabotaged their own ability to win this seat in 2011 when they packed Republican voters into it,” David Wasserman, House editor of The Cook Political Report said in a recent interview — alluding to the Democratic efforts in Annapolis to ensure that the state’s other seven seats went their way.
Forty-five percent of the 1st District’s registered voters are Republicans, compared to 35 percent who are Democrats and 20 percent who are independents.
But it is not just the handicappers who have voiced skepticism, and Colvin’s comments Tuesday could be interpreted as well as a gibe at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the political arm of the House Democratic Caucus.
While offering words of encouragement — “Since getting into the race, Jesse has put together a strong campaign operation that speaks to the people of Maryland’s 1st Congressional District and makes this a race to watch in November,” DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico said in a statement last spring — the DCCC has yet to offer any financial assistance to back up such comments.
“They barely gave us the time of day when we got started,” the 34-year old Colvin recalled during an interview last month, as he dined on hard shell crabs at an event put on by the Fraternal Order of Police chapter in Cecil County.
Even as he has campaigned relentlessly around the 200-mile long district — recently doing a day of events in each of the 12 counties over a 12-day period — Colvin, who served four tours of duty in six years as part of an Army Ranger unit in Afghanistan, has actively endeavored to work the fundraising circuit in Washington, D.C. and its affluent suburbs:
**On Sept. 5, Tom Wheeler — a venture capitalist and former lobbyist who was Federal Communications Commission chairman during President Obama’s second term — held a fundraiser for Colvin at his Washington home. The event featured Virginia Rep. Don Beyer and Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, a veteran of the war in Iraq, as “special guests.” Colvin’s FEC filing show Wheeler and his wife contributing a total of $5,200 to the campaign, with Beyer’s campaign committee chipping in $2,000.
**A week later, on Sept. 12, Colvin was at the D.C. home of Amy Bondurant, ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development during President Clinton’s second term. Special guest billing went to Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House minority whip. Bondurant, a former congressional aide who was later a partner in a well-connected Washington law firm, supplemented her hospitality with $2,310 in donations to the Colvin campaign.
**Just two nights later, on Sept. 14, Colvin made a stop at a Chevy Chase residence for a fundraiser sponsored by Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin and two labor union veterans: consultant Steve Sleigh, a former officials of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and Keith Mestrich, CEO of the Amalgamated Bank and former chief financial officer of the Service Employees International Union. Sleigh made a $1,000 contribution, as did the Democracy Summer Leadership PAC tied to Raskin.
And, just a week and a half before Election Day, Colvin will be back in Chevy Chase — for a fundraiser at the home of long-time Town of Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin, a vice chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party, with another Somerset resident, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, and Raskin serving as co-sponsors. Slavin has given $500 to Colvin’s campaign.
Asked last month whether the DCCC had helped to initiate any of these events, Colvin — with a hint of exasperation — responded: “All of these fundraising efforts have come through our hard work. What I have been doing is building relationships.”
His newly built relationships in D.C. and environs have yielded recent donations from such Democratic insiders as former Obama White House Chief of Staff Peter Rouse, who contributed $1,250, and former Clinton administration budget director Franklin Raines, who gave the maximum of $2,700 for the general election — on top of a prior $1,000 donation allocated to the primary campaign.
If Colvin is lacking for financial assistance from the DCCC, he is getting a generous helping of it from former Democratic National Committee Treasurer Scott Pastrick, a Chevy Chase resident. Like Raines, Pastrick gave Colvin $3,700 — including the $2,700 maximum for the general election — while his wife, Courtney Pastrick, donated another $2,700. Pastrick also has an Eastern Shore connection: He is a board member of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michael’s.
One of Colvin’s most prominent Republican supporters is a resident just up the road in Easton: Craig Fuller, who served as Cabinet secretary under President Reagan and was later chief of staff to George H.W. Bush while the latter was vice president. Fuller and his wife, Karen Fuller, have each donated $2,700 for the general election on top of $1,000 apiece earlier.
Another veteran of the Reagan-Bush era also shows up on Colvin’s latest FEC report: Richard Armitage, who held several posts in the Defense Department under Reagan before becoming deputy secretary of state under President George W. Bush. Armitage, a Vietnam War veteran, donated $1,200.
And a veteran of the war in the Balkans during the late 1990s — retired General Wesley Clark, who oversaw that conflict as supreme allied commander of NATO — is also a donor. Clark, who later made a brief bid for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, contributed $1,000.
Closer to home, Colvin has succeeded in lining up financial support from key players both in the Baltimore area and in Annapolis.
James L. Shea, former chairman of the Venable law firm and a contender for governor in this year’s Democratic primary, gave $1,500, while Thomas Mullen, CEO of Mercy Medical Center, has contributed a total of $4,000. The campaign committees of Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Appropriations Chairwoman Maggie L. McIntosh each gave $1,000, while incoming House of Delegates Majority Leader Kathleen Dumais donated $500.
Within the congressional delegation that Colvin hopes to join, the campaign committees of Baltimore area Reps. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John P. Sarbanes donated $3,000 and $1,000, respectively. More notable, perhaps were individual donations from Sarbanes’ father, former U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, who gave Colvin $1,000, and former U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who donated the $2,700 maximum for this year’s general election.