Analysis: Is Klacik’s Fundraising Haul Formidable or Folly?

7th District Republican congressional candidate Kimberly Klacik. Campaign photo.

Imagine you’re a Republican candidate in a tight race for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives ― maybe one of the quartet of candidates around the country that Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) has promised to help this fall.

Or maybe you’re one of the two Republican members of the Maryland General Assembly waging sincere ― but almost certainly doomed ― campaigns for Congress this year against well-funded Democratic incumbents.

Then you look at Kimberly Klacik ― the longshot GOP nominee in Maryland’s 7th congressional district who has become a conservative media sensation with her provocative videos and social media posts about conditions in Baltimore and her close connections with President Trump, and just reported raising $6.4 million for her campaign over the last three months. And you think: WTF?

Klacik’s eye-popping haul probably says more about the state of the conservative movement in the age of Trump and Twitter and Fox News than it does about her rematch with Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D), who beat her by about 45 points in the April 28 special election to replace the late Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D).

While Klacik is waging what looks like a campaign, with eager volunteers, merchandise, a pollster, $400,000 in expenditures for online ads and calls for Mfume to debate her, it’s hard not to feel that she’s really auditioning for a regular slot on Fox or One America News ― or for a position in the Trump administration, if there’s a second term. Klacik spent this weekend not in the 7th District, which covers territory in Baltimore City and Baltimore and Howard counties, but in Arizona, stumping for Trump, sometimes side-by-side with Donald Trump Jr.

Can’t wait to celebrate @realDonaldTrump’s victory,” Klacik wrote in a tweet over the weekend, accompanied by a photo of her with the younger Trump. “I will flip Maryland’s District 7 & support our President.”

Klacik is scheduled to be a guest on “Fox and Friends” on Monday morning, in part to discuss her other-worldly fundraising haul.

But what does all that money mean, for her campaign to oust Mfume? Maryland 7 is one of the most reliably Democratic districts in the country and it’s hard to imagine that Klacik’s bulging campaign treasury is going to move the needle more than a couple of points against Mfume.

Mfume, for his part, reported raising $184,000 over the past three months and took a swipe at his challenger.

“This Congressional seat belongs to the people of Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Howard County. Donald Trump and Kim Klacik cannot buy it,” he said. “They should take their money and greed somewhere else, because we are not for sale. Not now, not ever.”

Maryland Republican Chairman Dirk Haire and Thomas Kelso, Hogan’s campaign chairman, each gave Klacik $2,800 in this latest fundraising quarter. But the overwhelming majority of the $6.4 million she raised between July 1 and Sept. 30 came from out-of-state donors: Just $140,542 of the contributions, according to a Maryland Matters analysis, were made by Marylanders.

Klacik’s financial windfall must be the envy of Republican candidates from coast to coast. But is that the best use of GOP donors’ money? Or does it just make Trump partisans feel good to support a camera-ready Black woman who employs rhetoric reminiscent of the president’s?

Does the Klacik war chest actually help Republicans in Maryland? She did donate $5,600 recently to state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R), who is in an uphill fight against eight-term U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D).

But in an interview published Sunday in The Tennessee Star, a conservative website, Klacik was dismissive of Hogan, the most successful Maryland Republican in generations ― who told The Washington Post Friday that he wrote in the late President Reagan on his presidential ballot, rather than voting for Trump.

Klacik expressed gratitude for Trump’s support, but said she wasn’t expecting any from Hogan.

“I know he’s friends with my opponent, so I wouldn’t expect him to say anything on my behalf,” she told the website.

The article included an image of a tweet from Hogan congratulating Mfume when he was sworn in to Congress in May.

Meanwhile, another Trump ally, Rep. Andrew P. Harris, the lone Republican in Maryland’s congressional delegation, was shaking the tin cup over the weekend ― even though he’s the overwhelming favorite to win another term over the Democrat, military veteran and LGBTQ activist Mia Mason.

“The national Democrats are coming after me hard,” Harris warned in a fundraising appeal sent out by the Maryland GOP, noting that “liberal actress” Amy Schumer recently hosted a fundraiser for Mason.

“Our 1st District is Maryland’s only district that supported Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016,” Harris’ appeal continued. “Now, I’m President Trump’s re-election co-chair in Maryland, and that angers our socialist rivals to no end. We’ve got 12 counties and nearly 300 precincts to organize…and just less than 21 days to do it. I just made a radio buy and could really use your help to pay for more mailings.”

If Harris is truly worried about his re-election prospects, his campaign spending doesn’t reflect it. In the past three months, he reported spending $264,459 ― but he shipped $127,000 out to other Republican congressional candidates and contributed $67,500 to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Mason had not filed a campaign finance report for third quarter spending with the Federal Election Commission as of Sunday evening, even though they were due on Thursday.

Salling, who is challenging Ruppersberger in the 2nd District, raised just $22,016 at the same time Klacik raised her $6.4 million. Five of Salling’s Republican state Senate colleagues collectively chipped in $3,850. Ruppersberger raised $143,278 at the same time and reported $1,150,480 in his campaign account as of Sept. 30.

Every other Maryland congressional incumbent has overwhelming financial advantages over their challengers.

In the 3rd District, Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.) raised $28,043 and banked $1,063,223 while his Republican challenger, Charles Anthony, reported no financial activity. Likewise, George McDermott (R), a frequent candidate who is challenging Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D) in the 4th District, has not even registered with the FEC, while Brown raised $297,472 over the past three months and finished the reporting period with $1,151,444 on hand.

During the three-month period, Brown donated $100,000 to the Biden Victory Fund, $67,500 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and $23,500 to Democratic congressional candidates around the country.

In the 5th District, Republican challenger Christopher Palombi reported raising $30,425 and finished September with $19,801 in the bank. Incumbent Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D) ― the House majority leader ― raised $649,675, vacuuming up $448,250 from political action committees. During the past three months, he donated $175,000 to the DCCC, $26,000 to the Maryland Democratic Party and $98,000 to Democratic congressional districts.

In the 6th District, the Republican challenger, Del. Neil C. Parrott, actually outraised Rep. David J. Trone (D) in the third quarter of the year. Parrott reported bringing in $108,388 compared to Trone’s $53,166 take. But the figures are deceptive: Trone is a multimillionaire who seeded his campaign with $2.5 million of his own money earlier in the election cycle.

Trone spent $377,614 to Parrott’s $54,941 over the past three months ― including $124,000 paid to Hickman Analytics, a national Democratic polling firm. Trone reported $353,159 on hand compared for the final weeks of the campaign to $178,954 for Parrott.

In the 8th District, Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D) reported raising $345,038 between July 1 and Sept. 30 and had $1,237,374 in the bank after shipping $48,000 out to Democratic congressional contenders. His Republican challenger, aerospace engineer Gregory Coll, raised $10,288 and had just $4,848 in the bank.

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(Disclosure: The David and June Trone Family Foundation is a financial supporter of Maryland Matters.)