As Annapolis Lawmakers Ponder Bids for Congress, Incumbents Build Impenetrable War Chests

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D)
Presidential election cycles tend to be less eventful in Maryland then gubernatorial cycles — in part because there are fewer offices and fewer candidates on the ballot.
But one thing that makes presidential election years exciting in Maryland is the fact that state lawmakers can run for Congress without having to risk their own legislative seats. It’s a free shot, and at least a few Annapolis legislators will inevitably attempt to take advantage.
But for any state lawmaker contemplating a congressional run, there is this daunting and inescapable reality: Incumbent members of Congress start the election cycle with a huge fundraising advantage.
According to year-end campaign finance reports submitted to the Federal Election Commission last week, seven of Maryland’s eight incumbents in the U.S. House of Representatives had more than $500,000 in their campaign accounts as 2019 dawned. Two members had more than $1 million on hand.
The one member who had less than half a million dollars in the bank was freshman Rep. David J. Trone (D), a multimillionaire with an ability to spend an unlimited amount of money on his reelection.
This doesn’t mean that members of the General Assembly won’t try to run for Congress in 2020. Already, Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington) has announced his plans to attempt to take on Trone. Parrott raised $66,000 through Dec. 31 and reported $62,000 on hand.
Parrott — and perhaps other Republicans — are hoping that the contours of the 6th congressional district change. The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the district lines next month, and a commission empaneled by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) is setting about to recommend changes to the state’s Congressional map. It is unclear, however, whether these proposed changes will be adopted by the General Assembly, or whether new district boundaries will be more favorable to the GOP.
Will anyone from the legislature besides Parrott make the leap and run for Congress this election cycle? Count on it.
One analysis published in The National Journal recently suggested that Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) could be among the most vulnerable Democratic congressional incumbents in the country to a challenge from the left this election cycle. Ruppersberger’s 2nd district, which takes in portions of five jurisdictions, does not have many easily identifiable progressive state lawmakers whose legislative districts overlap with the congressional seat. However, under federal law, congressional candidates must only live in the states in which they are running; they don’t necessarily have to live in the district.
Ruppersberger had a robust $1.1 million in his campaign war chest as of Dec. 31.
The 2016 election cycle saw seven State House lawmakers running for Congress — and one of them, then-state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery), won. In 2012, the number was six. In 2008, there were two.
In 2004, three members of the legislature ran for Congress, including state Sen. E.J. Pipkin, who became the Republican nominee against U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D). In 2000, the number was three, and in 1996, seven members of the legislature ran for Congress. that 1996 figure was inflated by the fact that five lawmakers ran in the special election to replace then-Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who left Congress to become president of the NAACP. Elijah Cummings, then House Speaker Pro Tem in Annapolis, was elected to the seat, and holds it to this day.
Here are the fundraising totals for Maryland’s eight incumbent members of the House of Representatives, along with Parrott’s. They cover the period Nov. 26-Dec. 31. The next fundraising reports, covering the period Jan. 1-March 31, are due to be released on April 15.
Rep. Andrew P. Harris (R), 1st District
Raised $3,950
Spent $85,300
Cash on hand: $549,035
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D), 2nd District
Raised $1,573
Spent $30,877
Cash on hand: $1,118,732
Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D), 3rd District
Raised $27,542
Spent $11,493
Cash on hand: $1,150,483
Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D), 4th District
Raised $507
Spent $11,832
Cash on hand: $517,526
Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D), 5th District
Raised $19,333
Spent $194,687
Cash on hand: $634,132
Rep. David J. Trone (D), 6th District
Raised $430,000 (all from his own pocket)
Spent $328,243
Cash on hand: $108,534
Del. Neil Parrott (R), 6th District
Raised $66,111
Spent $3,627
Cash on hand: $62,483
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D), 7th District
Raised $30,513
Spent $51,661
Cash on hand: $886,230
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D), 8th District
Raised $9,429
Spent $10,385
Cash on hand: $665,129
Josh Kurtz
Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.

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