Candidates for statewide office began rolling out their annual fundraising numbers in dramatic fashion Thursday, with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore reporting that he pulled in an eye-popping $4.8 million since entering the race last June.
Three other Democratic candidates for governor, Tom Perez, John B. King Jr. and Jon Baron, each surpassed $2 million in money raised over the past several months — figures that would be impressive in most election cycles but were blown out of the water this time by Moore’s haul.
State Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D), who is also running for governor, notably did not say how much money he raised over the past year but boasted that he had more cash on hand than any other Democratic candidate — $3.3 million. Still, it appears as if Franchot took in less money in the past year than Moore, Perez, King or Baron. His war chest has been built over the last dozen years, when he hasn’t had to sweat re-election.
And in the race to replace Franchot as comptroller, Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore City) reported raising and banking an imposing $1.7 million.
The annual fundraising period for candidates for state and county offices closed on Wednesday, and campaign finance reports, which will provide full details, are due to be filed with the Maryland State Board of Elections by midnight on Jan. 19. But candidates who felt they had something to brag about began releasing their preliminary numbers on Thursday morning, advancing their preferred narratives about where they believe their campaigns stand.
Moore’s $4.8 million represents the most money raised by a first-time candidate for governor in Maryland history at this point in an election cycle. It is more than three times the highest total reported by a Democratic gubernatorial candidate at this fundraising deadline four years ago.
Moore, a best-selling author and former foundation CEO, said he had $3.1 million in his campaign treasury as of Wednesday.
Moore’s huge take doesn’t automatically reorder the June 28 Democratic primary — money isn’t everything in a political race — but it does suggest that he will have the resources he needs to introduce himself and portray himself as the fresh alternative to Franchot, the self-described frontrunner who is in his 16th year as comptroller and spent 20 years in the House of Delegates before that.
It’s a fundraising total that is causing political professionals’ jaws to drop.
“We have a lot of work to do, but feel confident about our ability to share our message and not only win in June, but bring our people-powered movement to Annapolis,” Moore said.
Moore’s campaign said the ticket of Moore and his running mate, former state Del. Aruna Miller, raised money from every Maryland jurisdiction and that more than 70% of the donations were $100 or less. On Wednesday night, after the fundraising reporting period closed, the campaign raised another $100,000 during a Zoom event.
“This may be a crowded field but there is only one campaign with the momentum, the energy, the vision, the path, and now very clearly the resources to win both in June and in November — Wes Moore and Aruna Miller for Maryland,” campaign manager Ned Miller said.
The Franchot campaign’s fundraising announcement was artfully written but missing critical information. In a statement, the campaign of Franchot and his running mate, former Prince George’s County councilmember Monique Anderson-Walker, said “it expects to be the most cash on hand of any campaign for governor,” $3.3 million.
But the campaign did not say how much money it raised over the past year or whether the cash on hand figure included money that came from a joint fundraising committee or from money Anderson-Walker had raised independently. A campaign spokesperson, Jordan Bellamy, did not respond to an email seeking comment.
In January 2021, Franchot reported more than $2.2 million in his campaign account and Anderson-Walker had $8,623 on hand.
In a statement, Franchot called his fundraising status “very encouraging.”
“It proves that we have a very strong and dedicated team, and we know that we must continue to push to the front,” he said. “It is critical, now more than ever, that Maryland elects a governor and lieutenant governor who have the vision and leadership to deliver a better quality of life for all Marylanders. Working with leaders and communities across the state we will deliver results, not rhetoric to make Maryland a more equitable and prosperous state.”
Unlike the other Democratic candidates for governor, Franchot is banned from raising money between now and April 11, due to a prohibition on state elected officials raising money during the 90-day General Assembly session, which began on Wednesday.
Perez, the former U.S. and Maryland labor secretary, announced that he had raised $2.7 million since launching an exploratory committee for the campaign.
Perez announced that the campaign will retain $1.5 million cash on hand at the reporting deadline. With key labor endorsements and a wealth of political contacts nationally and statewide, that figure likely keeps Perez in the hunt — and in previous election cycles would have been seen as a formidable haul.
“In just over six months, we have built a strong coalition to win the primary and flip Maryland from red to blue in this critical race,” Perez, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement.
“I am proud to have support from Marylanders in all 23 counties and Baltimore City, and I’m proud of the broad coalition we’ve built that includes unprecedented labor support. I’ve spent my entire career in public service, working to expand opportunity and promote justice, and I know what it takes to deliver for Marylanders.”
More than 65% of donations were less than $200, according to his campaign. So far, the campaign’s largest investments have been in campaign infrastructure such as staff and fundraising, said spokesperson Hannah Crook.
Perez’s campaign said the $2.7 million total includes funds raised by an exploratory committee. Perez registered a so-called 527 committee with the IRS last spring, a vehicle to support his early political activities, before he formally entered the race. Through June 30, that committee, Every Zip Code Counts, reported raising $254,512 and spending $232,725. A report of the organization’s financial activities through the end of 2021 is due to be filed with the IRS by Jan. 31.
Perez often characterizes himself as the most pro-labor candidate in the crowded Democratic primary race, and he has received endorsements from the largest state employee union in Maryland among others. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a Baltimore native, also endorsed Perez last month.
The former Obama administration Education secretary announced that he had raised over $2.5 million from 5,000 donors since launching his campaign in April.
Over 70% of the donations were $100 or less and the majority were from educators, the campaign said. King touts his background as a longtime teacher and school administrator on the campaign trail.
King has more than $1.2 million cash on hand, with the biggest expense most likely from his first statewide digital ad called “Truth,” according to campaign manager Joe O’Hern. Since that ad, King’s campaign reported raising over $600,000, with half coming from first-time donors.
King recently announced Michelle Siri, the executive director of The Women’s Law Center of Maryland, as his running mate.
“This strong showing of support gives the campaign the momentum and resources it needs to continue growing the statewide coalition that can not only win in June but in November as well,” O’Hern said. “Our statewide and national fundraising infrastructure puts John and Michelle in a very strong position to continue to grow their war chest and have the resources they need to communicate John and Michelle’s message of a brighter, equitable future for Maryland.”
Baron, a nonprofit executive who worked on Capitol Hill for years, will report more than $1.7 million in cash on hand later this month, according to a Thursday news release.
Baron, a first-time candidate, launched his gubernatorial bid last June and said he would refuse contributions from lobbyists, special interests and corporations. Baron and his wife Jessica made a “personal investment” in the campaign in addition to contributions from individuals, the campaign said.
That investment is expected to be significant. According to the press release, Baron’s campaign will report over $2 million raised including money from his own pocket.
“I’ve said from the beginning that I won’t take a dime from corporations, PACs, or Maryland lobbyists in this race,” Baron said in a statement. “Maryland deserves a governor who will answer to voters, not special interests — and I’m grateful to everyone who has contributed to our campaign.”
Five other Democratic candidates for governor chose not to release information about their latest fundraising reports Thursday. They are: Former Prince George’s county executive Rushern L. Baker III, former state attorney general Douglas F. Gansler, former Obama administration official Ashwani Jain, former Anne Arundel County executive Laura Neuman, who just entered the race this week, and Bread and Roses Party founder Jerome Segal.
The Republican candidates for governor, including the frontrunners former state Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz, and Del. Daniel L. Cox, also did not release fundraising figures.
Lierman was the only candidate for comptroller who went public with her fundraising totals on Thursday.
She raised more than $1.7 million in the last reporting period and has more than $1.73 million in cash on hand, according to a campaign email to supporters obtained by Maryland Matters.
Lierman received donations from residents of all 24 Maryland jurisdictions, according to the email, with more than 4,100 unique contributors. That includes 3,000 new contributors since the campaign’s last report.
Roughly 66% of those contributions were under $100, the campaign said, and more than 1,750 were under $25.
As a state delegate, Lierman isn’t allowed to raise money during legislative sessions, meaning the bulk of that money was raised after the 2021 session wrapped up in early April. Lierman announced her comptroller bid in December 2020.
While Lierman’s campaign will be barred from fundraising during the 90-day 2022 legislative session, her $1.7 million in cash on hand already exceeds what 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous had raised at this point in the cycle four years ago, according to the email. Jealous reported raising just over $1.2 million by this point in 2018 with more than $398,000 cash on hand.
Lierman is competing in the Democratic primary against Bowie Mayor Timothy L. Adams, a wealthy federal contractor. Harford County Executive Barry Glassman is seeking the office on the Republican side.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to clarify fundraising by the Perez campaign. The campaign reported raising $2.7 million since launching an exploratory committee. After this story was published, the campaign committee filed its annual report showing $2,436,665 in a state campaign account raised since Perez formally entered the race; the additional funds were raised during an exploratory phase.